| Awaiting loved ones, Red Bulls families cope with isolation
Posted: Apr 17, 2012, 6:59 am
By Elizabeth Baier
Minnesota Public Radio News
When Tina Kerska arrives home from her work as a nurse at Olmsted Medical Center, she starts her second job
Every day, there are horses and dogs to tend to She also must restock a large boiler with wood That's a task her husband, Col Eric Kerska of the Minnesota National Guard, typically takes care of
Tina Kerska spends some time video chatting with her husband, Red Bulls commander Col Eric Kerska, from the couple's kitchen just outside Rochester Credit: Alex Kolyer for MPR
"This is one job that I'm glad when he's back he can take over," Tina Kerska said
Soon, he will On Monday, Eric Kerska officially completed his mission as commander of the Minnesota National Guard 1st Brigade Combat Team's 34th Infantry Division in Kuwait Next week, he expects to board the brigade's last flight out of Kuwait and join Red Bulls in their transition from soldiers to civilians at Camp Shelby, Miss, before returning to Minnesota
Kerska's return couldn't come soon enough for his wife Her husband has served overseas three times since they were married 25 years ago But his most recent trip was their first as empty-nesters Their 19-year-old daughter, Mackenzie, lives in Winona and 22-year-old son Jacob lives in Mankato
For Tina Kerska, it's been a year of solitude in their big, empty house south of Rochester
"The hardest part is being here by myself," she said "There's only so many things you can say to dogs and horses, and they don't talk back to you Many times I would say 'I can't do it anymore'"
It's been a year of readjustment for Tina Kerska and the 2,700 other National Guard families in Minnesota waiting for their loved ones to return
Like many military wives, Kerska sought new routines to cope with her husband's absence She exercised and lost 27 pounds She remodeled four rooms of the house with the help of Eric's co-workers from the Rochester Fire Department
"We did the mud room We did the living room," she said "Eric's office is no longer an office It is now a guest bath "¦ And painted I think I painted everything but the kitchen while he's been gone, too"
But as much as she accomplished around the house, there are some things Kerska is disappointed about, including her role as a commander's wife She attended only two National Guard events and declined many invitations from Guard officials, friends and colleagues She said she retreated from the spotlight to spend more time with her children
"I feel that I should have been involved with more things, and I'm not," she said "Sometimes, I wonder if I'm not really that great a commander's wife because I don't participate, you know And that's kind of bad I just don't need anyone to know what's going on I've got other things to worry about than other people, which is a bad thing, too"
Throughout the year, there was just one thing Tina Kerska craved: the sound of a call from Eric via Skype
During a recent call, she told her husband about a family bridal shower in Winona, Easter celebrations in La Crescent and the new lawnmower they need to buy Then, they began to discuss his return home
"Remember when you came home in 1992 and you slept on the floor for about a week?" she asked
"Well it was hard," Eric Kerska said "The bed was too soft after sleeping on the tank"
"I know," she replied "That's all right You can do whatever you want"
Eric Kerska told his wife that he looks forward to sitting on his porch and working in his hayfield this summer
After their conversation, he said knowing she was alone in the house without their children made his tour of duty especially difficult
"I don't know how good a job I did to help her cope There's not a lot I can do That's the worst part," he said "Things happen and you're helpless to do anything about it except talk on Skype or send emails All I can really do is try to encourage and discuss things, and it's a helpless feeling, it's a terrible feeling, but that's the way it is"
Tina Kerska said she has become more resilient, as are many families waiting for loved ones to return
"We're strong for them, we're strong for ourselves, for our children," she said "And I think you mature You have to adjust to your surroundings, and I think people realize that, 'Yeah, I can do it"
In the next few weeks, Eric Kerska and thousands of other soldiers will reunite with their families and they'll face a new assignment of sorts - to learn how to be a family again
Minnesota Public Radio News can be heard at KZSE 917 FM in the Rochester area, or go online to MPRnewsorg
Camp Ripley earns top environmental award
Posted: 2017-04-26 02:09 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - The Department of Defense announced that Camp Ripley was selected as the winner of the Secretary of Defense Environmental Award for Natural Resources Conservation, Large Installation.
The awards recognize individuals, teams and installations for their exceptional environmental achievements and innovative, cost-effective environmental practices.
"The winners' efforts strengthen the Department of Defense's position as a resourceful environmental steward, both at home and abroad, and demonstrate our continued commitment to fulfilling mission needs through advanced environmental practices and technologies," stated James A. MacStravic, performing the duties of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.
Minnesota Guardsman finds work with victims in the military and the local community rewarding
Posted: 2017-04-26 10:57 AM
COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. - Staff Sgt. Nicquie Neely has been working with victims of sexual assault for four years in the Minnesota National Guard and also volunteers as a victim advocate in the community. As a victim advocate, it's her job to believe and support victims through a difficult process that can often involve extensive medical care and legal proceedings.
"Ever since I joined the Guard and heard about the SHARP program and learned what a victim advocate was, I always wanted to be one," said Neely. "And then I learned that you had to be an E-6 to be in that position, so the minute I got promoted I asked my commander if I could go to the training."
Neely is a combat medic and the full-time training and administration NCO with Company C, 134th Brigade Support Battalion. In addition to military victim advocate training, Neely also attends regular training with the civilian organization she volunteers for - SOS Sexual Violence Services in Ramsey County.
Minnesota National Guard Remembers the Holocaust with Jewish Community Relations Council
Posted: 2017-04-24 10:43 AM
Washington - Members of the Minnesota National Guard and the Air Force Reserve traveled to Washington D.C. with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (also known as the JCRC), to visit the Holocaust Museum, April 4, 2017, to honor the victims of the Holocaust. Also, traveling with this group were St. Paul and Minneapolis police officers along with students from various high schools around the state. For those in uniform that day, it was an opportunity to see, hear and experience the stories of victims and survivors of the Holocaust.
Each Service member who attended was asked to bring back a summary of their experience in the form of a presentation, professional discussion or briefing to their respective unit in order to help other Guard members better understand and remember that horrible event, to honor the courage of the victims and survivors, and to remain vigilant as members of the U.S. military.
"The honor and privilege of accompanying members of the Minnesota National Guard to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. met so many goals," said Steve Hunegs, the executive director of the JCRC. "I wanted to reinforce the importance of the commitment of the U.S. military to democracy. After all, it was the Allies that defeated Nazi Germany and ultimately put an end to the Holocaust."
Learning to instruct professionalism and discipline
Posted: 2017-04-19 02:15 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - It was a challenging and rewarding two weeks for members attending the Army National Guard Funeral Honors Instructor Course, April 1-14, at Camp Ripley.
Soldiers of National Guard units from all over the United States took part in the course designed to educate team leaders in a variety of funeral honor detail tasks, traditions and responsibilities.
"It's a stressful course, but for our job, we have to be prepared to do our job under stress; and we all really benefitted from that," said Class Honor Grad, Sgt. Ryan Valline of the 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry.