| Our view: D.C. delegation scores for Minnesota soldiers
Nearly 3,000 Minnesota “Red Bulls” — as the National Guard members of the 1st Brigade Combat Team are famously nicknamed — already were deployed, already were in Kuwait last fall, when the sucker-punch edict came down
The Defense Department decided to cut by at least half the number of days of leave promised to Guard members and Reservists who were deployed beyond their usual rotation cycles
The extra time off had been granted in 2007 as part of the Post Deployment/Mobilization Respite Absence program, or PDMRA
In cases of extraordinary sacrifice — meaning more-than-expected time away from family and lives back home — Guard members and Reservists were given four extra leave days for every extra month of active duty they were made to serve That suddenly changed in October to only one or two extra leave days, depending on location of service
“In the middle of their deployments, nearly 50,000 active-duty Guard members and Reservists learned that an important benefit already promised to them would not be honored,” US Sen Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn, wrote in a column for Memorial Day weekend “That was wrong”
But fixable, thanks to Klobuchar and others, including others who represent Northeastern Minnesota’s interests in Washington, DC, namely US Sen Al Franken, D-Minn, and US Rep Chip Cravaack, R-Minn Klobuchar introduced legislation to guarantee “that all of the reserve-component troops originally eligible for the full PDMRA benefit should receive what was promised to them,” as she wrote “When the Pentagon changed the policy, it should have made clear that troops currently serving on active duty would be grandfathered in under the original policy But it didn’t … You would think it might be pretty simple for the Defense Department to correct its mistake Of course, that wasn’t the case”
Franken co-sponsored the legislation He also ripped off a strongly worded letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta
“They have served courageously,” Franken wrote of Minnesota’s National Guard members “It is unfair to take away benefits they were promised”
Making matters worse, as Franken pointed out in his letter, “This is not the first time the Red Bulls have encountered problems with their earned PDMRA benefits Within days of being sworn in to the Senate in mid-2009, I co-sponsored a bill that redressed the failure to compensate service members … for eligible service”
In the House, Cravaack co-sponsored the companion bill
“When I attended the Red Bulls’ deployment ceremony last year in Pine City, Minn, one of the commanding officers in the brigade, Lt Col Eddie Frizell, said to the families, ‘I’ll bring them all home,’ ” Cravaack, a 24-year veteran of the US Navy, recalled in a statement “True to his word, the first thing Lt Col Frizell said in a hand salute to Maj Gen Richard Nash, the adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard, when his feet touched the ground (upon returning to) Minnesota was, ‘I brought them all home’ I do not think it is too much to ask that those who were promised 24 days of extra leave for up to two years of deployed service should receive that paid leave”
Doing the right thing wasn’t too much to ask, as it turned out Thanks to the actions and urgings of Klobuchar, Franken, Cravaack and others, the bipartisan legislation (how could it have been anything but bipartisan?) passed and was signed into law this month by President Obama
A wrong was made right Elected leaders worked well together to fix a problem
“This is a problem that should never have happened But it did And it should not have taken an act of Congress and the signature of the president to fix it But it did,” Klobuchar wrote “In the end, what’s most important is that our nation kept faith with our dedicated men and women in uniform When they signed up to serve and defend our country, the door was open and they were welcomed in When they return home and look for their hard-earned benefits, they shouldn’t find a door that’s closed with red tape”
Published May 29, 2012, 12:00 AM
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.
Norwegian youth recognized for response to vehicle accident
Posted: 2017-02-22 09:59 AM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Norwegian youths Stian Dahl and Haavard Engen received the Camp Ripley Garrison Commander's coin from Col. Scott St Sauver February 19, 2017, in recognition for reacting to a vehicle accident they witnessed earlier that week.
As part of the U.S.-Norway Reciprocal Troop Exchange, Norwegian youths ages 19-20 are matched up with a host family in order to spend an evening experiencing American culture. In most situations the "Buddy Weekend" as it's called allows the youths to go shopping, attend events and have home-cook meals along with their host family.
"We are able to match up youth members with families all over the state," said Staff Sgt. Tim Krouth, Buddy Weekend organizer. "Lots of the families have hosted one or two of our Norwegian friends for several years in a row now, it a great way to relax and see some of Minnesota."
To the top of the mountain and back, NOREX 44 members embrace the Norwegian winter
Posted: 2017-02-21 01:25 PM
HALTDALEN, Norway - After two days at a base camp near Haltdalen, Norway, Minnesota National Guardsmen participating in the 44th Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange were ready for the most challenging aspect of their four-day field training exercise - a ski march up the mountain.
It was Day three of the FTX, meaning members of the 44th Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange had slowly adjusted to surviving and thriving while living in a winter environment and also honed their skills on cross country skills well enough to begin a climb that would take nearly three hours.
"Our goal was to get you to know how to use the winter, see how the Norwegians use the winter, and how we survive the winter so we can conduct combat," said Vidar Aune, one of several members of Home Guard 12 guiding the Minnesota National Guard Soldiers and Airmen during their training here. "By getting the experience living outside in the snow, you manage to survive it and handle it quite well."