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Minnesota National Guard
Artillery Soldiers train with live ammo in Kuwait

NORTHERN KUWAIT, Kuwait - With the drawdown of US forces in Iraq complete, Soldiers from throughout the Army are getting the opportunity to participate in training that is difficult to conduct back in the states

In northern Kuwait, the Minnesota National Guard's 1st Battalion, 125th Field Artillery, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division took advantage of this unique situation

Soldiers participated in crew qualification on the M109A6 Paladin, a self-propelled, tracked artillery vehicle with a 155-millimeter cannon that is capable of launching artillery shells upwards of ten miles through the guidance of an on board computer system

The unit trains at Camp Ripley, Minn, during their weekend drills, but the resources to conduct training of this magnitude are scarce



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Since they arrived in Kuwait, the 1-125 FA has been providing security at Camp Patriot, Kuwait, where training on field artillery weapons like the Paladin is impossible

Fortunately the 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division's 1-82 Field Artillery out of Fort Hood, Texas, acquired Paladins in Kuwait after being reassigned to 3rd Army after the drawdown of US forces and equipment in Iraq

Third Army, a higher headquarters unit for the 1-125 FA, tasked the 1-82 FA with training field artillery units like the 1-125 FA in crew qualification

"To get a chance, in a combat theater like this, to shoot artillery is a once in a lifetime experience for all these guys and we're really excited to be out here," said 1-125 FA Capt Casey Vulcan, a native of New Brighton, Minn

The crew consists of a four-man team The chief oversees the crew, a driver, a number one man, who loads the shell, and gunner to load the composition B powder that propels the shell and verifies all the information in the computer is correct, ensuring the round lands where it is supposed to before pulling the lanyard that fires the primer and launches the round

"Absolutely, it's the best job in the gun," remarked gunner Spc Alex Scarset, a native of Minneapolis, Minn

The crew receives coordinates for the computer from forward observers who are located miles away, tracking the impact and placement of the Paladin rounds

The importance and uniqueness of this training is not lost on crew chief Sgt Micha Pohlman from Rushmore, Minn

"For most of us, it's been two and a half years or more since we've actually fired, so it's a nice refresher-it's kind of exciting to get in the gun again and do the whole process"

These Soldiers will bring this valuable training experience back to Minnesota when the 1-125 FA returns home later this spring

16 Feb, 2012
Story and photos by Spc Bob Brown
1/34th BCT Public Affairs




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Mission Complete: Bearcats Finish NATO Exercise in Lithuania's Suwalki Gap

Posted: 2017-06-23  02:56 PM
Air Assault Saber Strike PABRADE, Lithuania - At the sound of 17 U.S. Army rotary wing aircraft humming through the air, Soldiers of the Minnesota National Guard's 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry, in addition to Service members of five NATO Allied countries, load onto Black Hawk, Chinook and Apache helicopters, at Kazlu Ruda airstrip during the Saber Strike exercise, June 17, 2017. The multinational effort came together to conduct an air and ground assault in the Suwalki Gap to demonstrate the nations' capability to respond to any hostile act of a potential adversary.

"You could tell on everyone's faces that this was go time," said Sgt. Derrick Bruestle, a team leader for 2-136th CAB, also known as the Bearcats. "It wasn't just a training exercise to them anymore, it was a serious mission with real implications on the real world."

The magnitude of the exercise set in as the first bird lifted off the airstrip and started moving toward the objective in a staggered formation. Saber Strike is a U.S. Army Europe-led NATO exercise meant to exhibit a strengthened partnership of the military assets of the NATO Alliance.



Beyond NATO Commitments, MN State Partnership with Croatia Continues to Grow

Posted: 2017-06-22  10:25 AM
Saber Strike SPP PABRADE, Lithuania - Since 1996, the Minnesota National Guard and the Croatian Armed Forces have been partners in the National Guard's State Partnership Program. Beyond the bond of the NATO commitment, a mutual trust and unique bond has been forged amongst the warriors of each respective nation. From Camp Ripley to Karlovac, the soldiers have found a common cause of continuous improvement. Exercise after exercise, there has been a greater appreciation of one another's culture and customs.

You don't have to look to far to see this dynamic. When asked if he had ever worked with Minnesota National Guardsmen before, 1Lt Emanuel Hamer of the Croatian Armed Forces said, "This is my fourth time working with 2-136 "Bearcats," each time we grow closer and stronger. I feel like they are members of my unit. I'm glad I have this opportunity to learn new techniques and share some of our own with the Americans."



7 Nations, 4 Branches, 1 Mission; Saber Strike '17

Posted: 2017-06-20  02:14 PM
Saber Strike 17 PABRADE, Lithuania - As the sun begins to set on the Lithuanian countryside, the final touches are put on the camouflage netting designed to break the silhouette and conceal the position of the Tactical Action Center, or TAC, of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division on June 17, 2017. As part of the multinational exercise of Saber Strike '17, the 1/34th ABCT is providing support to the Air Assault Task Force Commander, Col. Charles Kemper.

As the first ever combined air and ground assault in the annual Saber Strike exercise, this year's exercise has set a milestone in testing the compatibility of seven nations and all military branches.

"We want to reassure all of our NATO Allies that we are in this together," said Kemper. "We're part of the team and we can demonstrate capability."



Minnesota Aviators complete successful eXportable Combat Training Capability exercise

Posted: 2017-06-20  08:30 AM
XCTC FORT HOOD, Texas - Soldiers from the Minnesota National Guard's 2-147th Assault Helicopter Battalion wrapped up support for an eXportable Combat Training Capability (XCTC) exercise at Fort Hood, Texas, recently. The unit was part of Task Force Ragnar, the exercise's aviation element, supporting the Tennessee National Guard's 278th Armored Calvary Regiment as they prepare for a rotation to the National Training Center in 2018.

"Our mission is to support a brigade element here," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 John Otremba, with the 2-147. "But I think our ultimate mission is to train for an austere environment which sets us up for success at NTC next year."

The task force conducted aviation support missions including air assault, sling load, deliberate attack, defensive positioning and key leader escorts. They also conducted aviation-specific training in personnel recovery, downed aircraft recovery, field maintenance and air traffic control operations.



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