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"An IED went off on the right side of us," recalls Tomczak "I dropped down in to the vehicle to make sure everyone was ok"
After Tomczak verified that his crew was ok he jumped back up into the turret to engage the individuals who set off the IED
"I was trying to find them through my thermal scope, but it wasn't working," said Tomczak
Half of the scope was blown off during the IED explosion
At that moment Tomczak noticed a sharp pain in his elbow and dropped back down into the vehicle After further inspection by his Truck Commander (TC), Sgt Cade Gornick, Tomczak had come to the realization that he had taken shrapnel in his arm from the blast
Pvt Jason Gates, sitting in the back of the MRAP, rendered aid to Tomczak's arm, which temporarily stopped the bleeding until a medic was able to tend to his wounds
"Gates patched up Tomczak and then jumped on the gun, so we could continue on the mission," said Gornick
Searching for Improvised Explosive Devices IEDs is not out of the normal for Tomczak as this is the second Purple Heart he has received
The first Purple Heart was awarded to him on the brigade's 22-month deployment to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in February 2007 after an IED exploded next to the Humvee while on a short haul convoy from Logistical Support Area Anaconda, Iraq to Forward Operating Base Spiker, Iraq
"The first IED I went through was by far the worse because it was the first," said Tomczak "After going through an event like that it changes you; I know there are Soldiers who have never gone through the experiences I have and I am thankful for that"
When asked about what he was most thankful for after his second IED Tomczak simply replied, "I'm glad it happened to me and not somebody else"
Although Tomczak is thankful most Soldiers have not experienced what he has, Gornick was working side by side with Tomczak in the same truck when both IEDs went off Gornick was the driver of the Humvee during the last deployment and is now the TC of Tomczak's MRAP during this deployment
"We are the luckiest unlucky people you will ever meet," Gornick exclaimed "I knew the day they paired us up on this deployment we were going to get blown up again"
Despite everything they've been through, Gornick was still able to say with a smile on his face, "I am very proud of Tomczak"
After taking a few moments to reflect on his ceremony Tomczak said, "if you look back at the people who have two Purple Hearts you can't help, but have the utmost respect for them and to find myself now in that category it's a real honor"
Posted: 2017-03-24 10:19 AM CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Every spring Camp Ripley begins its annual controlled burn program to help reduce the risk of wildfire during training.
"Usually the burns are completed every spring before the summer annual training season begins," said Tim Notch, training area coordinator on Camp Ripley. "However, the warmer weather conditions provide a nice opportunity for preventative burns earlier this season."
As in years past Camp Ripley will conduct controlled burns on approximately 13,000 acres of the 53,000-acre military reservation. The burns are done in coordination with the staffs of the Camp Ripley Department of Public Works and the Camp Ripley Environmental Department along with support from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Posted: 2017-03-23 09:46 AM DULUTH, Minn. - Pfc. Trevor Nelson received the Minnesota Distinguished Recruiting Ribbon and a Minnesota Recruiting and Retention Battalion medallion for excellence from Command Sgt. Maj. Curtis Serbus, March 18, 2017, at the Duluth Armory. Nelson earned these awards as part of the online referral system, Leads 2 Enlistment for referring four friends who have joined the Minnesota National Guard.
"I talked to some buddies in my school about the Guard. They liked the benefits, so I put their info in the app and let my recruiter take over." said Nelson. "I thought it would be fun to serve with friends and help them figure out their path in life."
Nelson is currently a senior at Cloquet Senior High School and assigned to the Recruit Sustainment Program in Duluth. He attended basic training at Fort Benning in the summer of 2016 with follow-on training in the summer of 2017 to become an infantryman.
Posted: 2017-03-10 08:50 AM LITCHFIELD, Minn. -Bruce Cottington, a Navy veteran of WWII and Korea, donated a bronze bust of Gen. John W. Vessey, Jr. to the Litchfield National Guard unit during the armory's public open house event March 4. Cottington, a Litchfield resident, commands the Minnesota Chapter of the Veterans of Underage Military Service. VUMS members enlisted in the military prior to the minimum age requirement in order to serve their country during WWII. Cottington received the bust from Vessey, a fellow VUMS member. Both enlisted in the military at the age of 16.
The highlight of the 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion open house was the unveiling of the sculpture. The unit was very supportive when Cottington proposed donating the sculpture. The Litchfield community has always been very supportive of the National Guard over the years, so the open house was a chance to say 'thanks' to their neighbors. "This was a great opportunity to honor Bruce and to honor Gen. Vessey," said B Co., 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion Commander, Capt. Seth Goreham. Bravo Company also has a tight relationship with the local American Legion and VFW. Many Litchfield citizens are former members of Bravo Company, or the unit's predecessors A Co, 682nd Engineer Battalion, and the 849th Mobility Augmentation Company.
Posted: 2017-03-08 03:29 PM CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - The garrison command team of Camp Ripley, family, friends and colleagues from the Minnesota National Guard attended a Change of Responsibility ceremony between Command Sgt. Maj. Mike Worden and Command Sgt. Maj. Matt Erickson, March 5, 2017, at Camp Ripley.
The ceremony was an official "passing of the sword" from one senior noncommissioned officer to the next and assumption of the duties and responsibilities that go along with the position of Garrison Command Sergeant Major.
As with many military ceremonies those in attendance welcomed Erickson as a new member of the team and bid farewell, recognized and thanked Worden for his service.