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Minnesota National Guard
Embracing the Hole and War

I dedicate this post to SSG Jeff Larson High school classmate and the reason for much laughter and many smiles throughout his life, SSG Larson died in September 29th following three tours with the Minnesota National Guard You fought the good fight Jeff

When I left the Army in 2007, it did not take me long to realize, there was a hole inside of me Something was missing, maybe even broken The camaraderie? The mission? The sense of purpose? CPT Freeman and CPT Mahafee? A dozen, two dozen, three dozen or more troops and friends? All missing All gone

I hated the war, but I loved being a warrior It was my calling I answered it for roughly 11 years, and then I came home to an empty curbside at Bradley International in Hartford, CT In the months and years that followed, I realized America was glad to have me back Unfortunately, many didn't even know I had ever left, and those that did wanted me to be who I was before the war: no hole

I tried to be that person, and in a painful, prolonged process I learned I could never be who I once was In large part because of the hole, and in an equal part because war had condensed my life experience so much it evolved me quickly through the baser and nobler aspects of humanity that those who do not go to war may not experience I did not feel normal coming home; and I certainly did not feel okay I don't blame my family and friends They kept me alive through the process They were all, in their own way saints and angels

But I defied them with my addictions, my depression and my dreams of suicide When I found climbing in 2009, I immediately thought I had found the answer My hole could be filled with climbing It was just what I needed to replicate the positive aspects of war: camaraderie, sense of purpose, mission, a warrior spirit

The problem is that if you spend a lot of time trying to fill a hole, you can slip in The edges crumble You lean too far And, eventually, you will fall We all do At the bottom there is what you'd expect to find: darkness; and depression, suicide, homelessness, addiction; 18 suicides a day amongst veterans, active duty suicides outpacing deaths in combat this year

With arguably more money and more awareness on veteran issues than any time in history, why is the bottom of the hole so full? Is it because in reintegration programs, our country has slipped into assimilation programs in rushing to make us "normal" again? Is the reintegration process a set-up?

Or is it that damned hole?

When a friend of mine posted this quote from fitness guru Mark Twight describing his experience when he left hard climbing behind, I began to rethink my approach Substitute the Army or war with climbing:

Walking away left a hole inside me that was impossible to fill Nothing could replace what climbing had been to me so I didn't bother trying Instead I enjoyed the necessity of the hole, learned about the man around it, and never looked for something to put into it As I became comfortable with where I had come from and who I was new doors opened to new possibilities

What I realized is that for me, climbing, more than filling the hole, has actually led me to new doors and new possibilities It gave me the time to analyze and become comfortable with who I had become around the hole And, perhaps most importantly, it has helped me realize I'm not looking for just a new normal If I wanted to be normal I would not have joined the Army in the first place, so why would I want it coming home?

I don't have to fill the hole Neither do you Embrace it Define it as you see fit and move on stronger because of it

Posted: 10/16/2012 1:30 pm
Stacy Bare
Director, Sierra Club Mission Outdoors
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Forging a path to career success

Posted: 2018-03-16  08:45 AM
Col. Angela Steward-Randle ST. PAUL, Minn. - Col. Angela Steward-Randle grew up in a military family - her father served in the Army on active duty - but it was a chance encounter with a friend at college that led her to want to make the military a career.

"My story is no different than many others," Steward-Randle, the Director of Human Resources, Manpower and Personnel for the Minnesota National Guard said. "I was in college and looking for financial resources to help pay for it."

Her college friend suggested they attend a summer training with the Reserve Officer Training Corps that had no obligation and could earn them some money. The friend never ended up going, but Steward-Randle did. After earning recognition as the top honor graduate and receiving an offer of a scholarship, she was hooked.

Minnesota Guardsman Receives Award for Combating Drugs in his Community

Posted: 2018-03-09  03:13 PM
Counterdrug WOODBURY, Minn. - Staff Sgt. Benjamin Kroll, an analyst with the Minnesota National Guard's Counterdrug Task Force who is assigned to work with the Hennepin County Sherriff's Office was recognized for his achievements as the Analyst of the Year during the 2018 Minnesota Association of Crime and Intelligence Analysts Training Symposium in Woodbury, Minnesota, March 7, 2018.

Through a partnership with Minnesota law enforcement agencies throughout the state, the Minnesota National Guard Counterdrug Task Force (MNCDTF) supports the anti-drug initiatives to counter all primary drug threats and vulnerabilities through the effective application of available assets, said Maj. Jon Dotterer, Counterdrug Coordinator for the State of Minnesota. The goal for the program is to support federal, state, tribal, and local agencies in the detection, disruption, interdiction, and curtailment of illicit drugs.

Kroll is one of sixteen service members on the Counterdrug Task Force that provides this force-multiplying service to our communities against illicit drug-use. With the information that law enforcement provide through their patrols and daily operations, Kroll and his colleagues across the state assist by putting together a figurative picture with all of the gathered information which aids in identifying how to move forward with legal action to deter or prevent the sale or use of illegal narcotic drugs.

Women Opened Doors in Minnesota National Guard

Posted: 2018-03-08  09:05 AM
Minnesota National Guard ST. PAUL, Minn. - "The battlefront is no place for women to be," said Command Sgt. Maj. Earl Kurtzweg, 125th Field Artillery, in an article published in 1976. "There are certain jobs girls say they can do, but they just can't do ... the battlefront is no place for women to be. Other countries in the world use women in combat, but the U.S. has not come around to that way of thinking." Kathy Berg, a New Ulm reporter summarized at the time. "So women in the New Ulm unit take care of personnel files and pay records and leave the fighting to the men."

The Minnesota National Guard has "come around to that way of thinking" since those early days of gender integration. In the last 44 years women have made momentous strides toward inclusion and acceptance. Their accomplishments are testimony to their fortitude and the progressive development of the Minnesota National Guard.

When an accomplished female Soldier is credited with breaking barriers she will often pass that honor to the women that preceded her. Brig. Gen. Johanna Clyborne is such a leader. She acknowledges that she is one of the first females in the Minnesota National Guard who has held key leadership roles, however she sees it differently. "I feel responsible for all women in uniform," said Clyborne. "Women before me opened the door, now I've cleared the room. It's up to the women behind me to hold the room."

Securing the Bold North: Minnesota National Guard supports Super Bowl LII

Posted: 2018-02-02  10:45 PM
Super Bowl 52 MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - More than 400 Minnesota National Guardsmen are supporting security efforts in Minneapolis ahead of Super Bowl 52.

"This is what we do," said Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen, Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard. "When the local community can't meet the public safety needs, they come to the Guard. We're their normal partner, we're a natural partner, and we're their preferred partner when it comes to filling in the gaps that they can't fill."

At the request of the city, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton authorized the Minnesota National Guard to provide support to security efforts leading up to and during Super Bowl 52. The Guardsmen are providing direct support to and working alongside law enforcement officers from across the state. Like their civilian law enforcement partners, Minnesota Guardsmen are focused on ensuring a safe experience for the residents and visitors who are attending the Super Bowl festivities.

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