| Returning veterans seek jobs
The first of nearly 3,000 Minnesota National Guard servicemen and women returning from overseas have begun arriving in Minnesota
Many of them will encounter the same challenges encountered by Henry Harkreader, who said he has struggled to find work since returning to Duluth from Afghanistan in 2010 The 34-year-old Army National Guard veteran and current Lake Superior College student said he feels that some prospective employers dismiss him when they learn he saw combat during his two tours overseas
"We have that stigma: They're worried we're going to fly off the handle," he said, as some people assume veterans have post-traumatic stress disorder "It's not easy for combat vets to come back"
Harkreader was one of 75 military veterans who attended the Twin Ports Job Fair on Monday at Wessman Arena in Superior, in which the first hour was reserved for veterans and service members
"One of the biggest issues is going to be employment, getting these young men and women decent-paying jobs," said Steve Saari, regional director of Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans "Whatever our community can do to help hire these guys will help prevent problems down the road"
Pam Hamman, a driver recruiter for Superior's Halvor Lines, an over-the-road trucking company, was at Monday's job fair She said she actively looks for former military members to employ Veterans are disciplined and have had drug screening, she said, and they manage time well and are dependable The company has hired about a dozen veterans in the last six months
"Over-the-road (driving) is tough for families," Hamman said "But military families are used to (husbands and wives) being gone"
Timothy Anhalt spoke with 26 veterans during the job fair The assistant training director for the Wisconsin Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said the training and work ethic of military members goes well with electrical training and work, and a large number of electrical apprentices in Wisconsin are veterans
"But it may not work with a small-business owner," he said, which can be why some veterans have a hard time finding jobs "The problem some companies may have with hiring vets is their only experience is in combat"
Harkreader, who spent eight years on active duty as both a mortarman and a truck driver, said help exists for veterans, but "we have to find it You have to dig"
"We need more employers willing to hire a vet and sticking to what they say," he said "If you say you are going to look at vets first, then do it Put vets first We've earned our right I know so many jobless and homeless vets right now, it's unreal"
Training to go back home
In addition to the stress of looking for employment, returning veterans must negotiate the re-establishment of relationships, tapping into educational and medical benefits - and, sometimes, finding a place to live
With the spike in returning service members, the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans expects an increase in demand for its services to veterans and their families who are homeless
The agency is doing what it can to prepare
"We have a new VA grant that just started this year that has really helped us with our outreach in northern Minnesota," Saari said "The timing of this grant is excellent for these guys returning"
Meanwhile, the Minnesota National Guard is working to prevent the need for service members to seek crisis care
"We are proud of their accomplishments," Major Aaron Krenz, chief of deployment cycle support for the Minnesota National Guard, said of the returning Guard members "We are committed to making sure that they get the support they need"
The Guard begins working to prepare its members to find employment back home while they're still overseas, with training in resume-writing, mock interviews and how to work a job fair Minnesota Adjutant General Richard C Nash sent an employment resource team to Kuwait in March to help
A team of officials and service providers are currently meeting with returning Guard members for Initial Reintegration Training as they go through demobilization in Mississippi
"They are helping identify the service members' needs and connecting them with the resources in their communities when they go home," Krenz said
Among the service providers in Mississippi are representatives from the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system
Jodi Kiminski, MnSCU's northeast regional coordinator for the veterans' resource office, arrived in Mississippi last week to meet with returning Guard members
"I think it is fantastic" that the Minnesota Guard sends teams to Mississippi, she said "They are leading the nation in this sort of stuff No one else is doing this The service members appreciate it so much, and retain the information They sit and listen to you It is so worth it"
In recent years MnSCU has improved service to veterans as well Recent accomplishments include:
Establishing veterans centers on most campuses
Developing a better system for granting college credit for military education
Providing telephone and online support for educational counseling
In 2011, 10,644 veterans and service members were enrolled in one of the system's 31 institutions, up 57 percent from 6,777 students in 2008
After they return home, Guard members can attend 30-, 60- and 90-day reintegration meetings The first two are family-focused The first reviews the benefits they are entitled to and the resources available to help them re-establish their civilian lives
The second session addresses topics such as substance abuse, stress and anger - "which is very normal," Krenz said, "because you are going from a very simplistic, mission-orientated environment to a very gray, very fluid environment It can become very overwhelming"
The final meeting is for service members alone, and it is attended by representatives from federal, state and county Veterans Services Offices
Minnesota was a pioneer in developing such a comprehensive program connecting service members and their families with community support, training, services and resources Deciding that returning veterans should not have to go through what he did after Vietnam, then-Minnesota Adjutant General Larry Shellito helped the state develop Beyond the Yellow Ribbon in 2004-05
"Prior to that, service members would return and it was four months out before we came back together," Krenz said "By then, marriages were in shambles, homes were in foreclosure, and some were going through bankruptcy A high price was being paid for leaving servicemen and women alone"
Published April 25, 2012, 07:00 AM
Camp Ripley strikes first before wildfire season
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.
Minnesota Guardsman earns recognition through Leads 2 Enlistment program
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.
Litchfield and Local Veteran Honor Gen. John Vessey at Armory Open House
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.
Camp Ripley welcomes new command sergeant major
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.