| 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"
Officers convene for 112th Meeting of the National Guard Association of Minnesota
Posted: 2017-04-28 12:38 PM
MANKATO, Minn. - Commissioned leaders of the Minnesota National Guard convened for the 112th General Conference of the National Guard Association of Minnesota at the Verizon Wireless Center and Hilton Garden Inn, Mankato, on April 22, 2017.
The annual gathering of association members - who serve as advocates for the needs of Soldiers, Airmen and their families - includes a business meeting, commanders march, formal dining event and transfer of responsibility to the chapter's new president.
The day's event began with a business meeting, which focused on the association's mission of educating and informing legislators on the issues facing the current and future role of the National Guard in serving Minnesota communities. The strategic planning meeting was attended by Minnesota National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Richard Nash, his staff and unit commanders.
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."