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Minnesota National Guard
Long history in artillery ends as Olivia Armory reorganizes as part of Roseville-based regional support group

By: Tom Cherveny, Associated Press
Published December 19, 2011, 12:00 AM

OLIVIA— The military’s presence in Olivia dates to the late 1800s, there has been an armory here since the turn of the last century and always there has been artillery

Horses kept at what is now the Olivia Golf Course pulled the first artillery pieces The early guns were replaced by a succession of ever-larger howitzers through the years

Until now

“Instead of howitzers, it’s trucks,’’ said Staff Sgt Ryan Robbins, who is helping lead the Minnesota National Guard unit in Olivia as it transitions into an entirely new role

As of July, the Olivia unit has been part of the 224th Transportation Company under command of the 347th Regional Support Group based in Roseville The Olivia unit is attached to Austin, where an induction ceremony for its new leadership was held just last month

Soldiers in the unit are undergoing training for new roles as part of a light- to medium-transportation company Each soldier is required to complete four weeks of training focused on truck driving and hauling equipment and containers

It’s likely to take several months yet before all of the soldiers can schedule and complete their training, which is offered at bases from Wisconsin to Louisiana, according to Robbins

The Olivia unit had been part of the 1st Battalion, 151st Field Artillery headquartered in Montevideo since 1992, and before that, dating to 1946, had been the headquarters for the 1st Battalion, 175th Field Artillery

The 151st Field Artillery was outfitted with lighter, faster and more accurate M777 howitzers to replace its M198 howitzers There are now four guns instead of six for the battalion, and that led to the reorganization

Soldiers in Olivia had the option of remaining with Bravo Company based in the Madison Armory and staying with the 151 FA, or retraining with the new Olivia detachment

About 30 soldiers chose to stay, said Robbins, who is among them

No doubt it’s been difficult for some to part with the artillery tradition “Old rivers run deep,’’ said Lee Stock, Renville County veterans service officer who had once served with the Olivia unit

Stock and Harry Hawkinson, who retired after a 35-year career that started in 1967 at the Olivia Armory, said that it can be hard to put all that tradition behind Yet both said the unit’s new role seems to be well-received by both its former members and new

The Olivia unit is expected to number 160 strong as a transportation unit, according to Robbins

It is welcoming soldiers who transferred from other units in the state affected by the reorganization that took place

It’s also welcoming new recruits, among them its first female members As an artillery unit, it could not include female soldiers Now, women in the Olivia area interested in being part of the Guard have the opportunity to be part of the local unit

There are other opportunities created by the changed duties as well Robbins noted that some of the soldiers have welcomed the change itself, and the opportunity it represents to learn new skills

Also, the skills in transportation are readily transferable to civilian work, he noted

As for all of the tradition, the armory donated photos and other historical memorabilia to museums in the county

Robbins emphasized that in most respects, people in the community will see no changes The armory and its soldiers continue to remain an active part of the community and continue to enjoy the same support from the larger Renville County community, he said
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