| Chilly weather doesn't hamper warm welcome for returning soldiers
By Dan Nienaber Free Press Staff Writer
April 29, 2012 ST PETER - A snappy breeze and frosty drops of rain didn't keep dozens of proud parents, siblings and friends from waiting along the streets of St Peter Sunday to welcome their soldiers home
Grant Wiest's father, stepmother, twin brother and five other siblings didn't think twice about heading for cover during the drizzle They just looked down Minnesota Avenue, also Highway 169, and waited They knew there were four buses coming and Grant, of Le Sueur, would be waiving from the passenger seat of number two
"We miss him and he's been gone long enough," his father, Lyle Wiest said "We're ready for him to be home"
Soldiers from the 1st Battalion 125th Field Artillery had been in Kuwait for about nine months Add in several weeks of training before they left and debriefing once they were back in the United States, and they were away from home for two weeks short of a year
The 70 or so soldiers returning to St Peter were among about 2,500 Minnesota soldiers who have been returning from deployments in Kuwait The St Peter soldiers and another group of area soldiers, which returned to New Ulm Sunday, are members of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team That group has the distinction of being the largest deployment of Minnesota National Guard soldiers since World War II
During their Kuwait deployment, the brigade was participating in Operation New Dawn, which, as the final phase of the Iraq War, involved moving US forces out of Iraq
Led by police squad cars, fire trucks and motorcycles, the buses made a quick trip around St Peter before pulling into the city's National Guard Armory Once the soldiers were off their buses, lined up and standing at a attention, it didn't take long to zip through the formalities and move on to the important business
The man who had called them to attention just seconds earlier didn't say much before he set the anxious men and women free
"Thanks for your service and good job," he said "Company dismissed"
Both the soldiers and the crowd around them responded with a cacophony of yeas and woo-hoos
One of the woo-hoos in the crowd came from Krystal Sprint of Mankato She was holding a bright green sign that said, "Felicia My hero My sister"
"She's my best friend and it was a long deployment," Sprint said after welcoming her sister, Felicia Vandenest, home
Vandenest was able to come home for a two-week leave during December, but she had to be back on duty just days before Christmas
"It was kind of like a teaser to come home and see all the lights then, boom, I was back in Kuwait," she said "It seems like it was all just a dream now You look back on it and so much happened and the days were so long it just flew by"
Vandenest planned to go home and enjoy a quiet dinner with her dad, Brian Vandenest of La Salle, and her sisters Sunday night The Southwest Minnesota State University student had no solid plans for the rest of the summer, except that she knows it will include a lot of grilling, camping and kicking back
"I'm going to school," she said "I have all summer to relax"
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.