| Iraq War left mark on Minn. National Guard members, families
ST PAUL, Minn -- The Iraq War, which started 10 years ago today, left a lasting imprint on the men and women who served and on their families
One Minnesotan who served in the war, 31-year-old guardsman 1st Lt Jesse Pope, arrived in Baghdad on Halloween in 2004
To calm his nerves, the St Paul native turned the music in his Humvee up full-blast as the convoy entered the city for the first time
"I'm 23-years old I'm wearing a bunch of body armor and driving into Baghdad Iraq and listening to Outkast 'Bombs Over Baghdad,' like I'm out for a joyride in my Pontiac Firebird with my buddy," Pope said "It was very surreal That was almost like the Superbowl of my deployment"
Pope's company was one of the first Minnesota National Guard units to go to Iraq in the early days of the conflict In fact, Minnesota's 34th Red Bull Infantry Division has been one of the most deployed units since the September 11, 2001 attacks
He was based near the Baghdad airport on a road that became notorious for insurgent attacks His feeling of invincibility was soon shattered when he climbed a wall to secure a surveillance camera
"I hear something whiz by me," he remembered
It was a sniper shot
"The fraction of a second between hearing that sound and then hearing the report from the rifle was confusion for me That is what it sounds like when somebody just misses hitting you in the face," he said
After that first attack, Pope made it through his almost two-year tour safely Others did not At least 113 people with Minnesota ties have died in connection with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
Despite coming home to a job, it still took months for Pope to adjust to civilian life Even now, he feels the war's effects
"When I walk down the street and I'm by myself, I look at what people are doing," Pope said "I feel like I'm kind of always surveying the scene a little bit more than what I used to do in my normal life"
TROUBLES AT HOME
Pope is one of thousands of Minnesotans living with recent memories of combat There are almost 48,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan in Minnesota The state Department of Veterans Affairs says that's around 13 percent of the state's total veteran population
Many of these men and women served overseas more than once
The guard's Maj Aaron Krenz said the separation of deployment was tough on Minnesota military families
"You're leaving your spouse, you're leaving your kids and a lot changes in a year's time," Krenz said "You're leaving your employer Just being gone and leaving your family to do everything that you were a part of"
But the reunion can be even more stressful than the separation
Many service members come home with physical and psychological injuries sustained in combat that can lead to mental health problems down the road Research also shows it's often difficult for veterans to find their place in the family again, as so many roles and relationships have shifted during their absence
"Many service members and their families struggled and unfortunately some of them either ended up in divorce, their homes were foreclosed on," Krenz said "Things got out of control a lot quicker than we all expected"
A NEW APPROACH IN MINNESOTA
And that need led to a reintegration initiative that's revolutionized how soldiers come home In 2005, the Minnesota National Guard launched a mandatory program they call Beyond the Yellow Ribbon
It's designed to connect veterans and their families with resources to stabilize health, relationships and finances The program begins even before soldiers leave US soil, to prepare them and their families for what's to come
In previous conflicts military veterans returned home to little, if any, support at all And while there is no hard data on the program, guard officials say Beyond the Yellow Ribbon has been successful Other states have expressed interest in launching similar programs
Minneapolis attorney and military veteran Brock Hunter said that while the Minnesota National Guard has made great strides, even more help is needed He said the demand for services to assist the rising number of soldiers coming back with undiagnosed combat trauma is growing
"We still, 40 years after Vietnam, have hundreds of thousands of Vietnam veterans across the country who are chronically incarcerated, homeless and addicted and I think we can do a lot better job this time around," Hunter said "I think we already are doing a lot better job this time around"
To help support today's returning veterans, Hunter said, the federal government will need to spend more money, something he anticipates could become more politicized as the war in Afghanistan also winds down and more service members return home
by Jessica Mador, Minnesota Public Radio
March 19, 2013
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."
Learning to instruct professionalism and discipline
Posted: 2017-04-19 02:15 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - It was a challenging and rewarding two weeks for members attending the Army National Guard Funeral Honors Instructor Course, April 1-14, at Camp Ripley.
Soldiers of National Guard units from all over the United States took part in the course designed to educate team leaders in a variety of funeral honor detail tasks, traditions and responsibilities.
"It's a stressful course, but for our job, we have to be prepared to do our job under stress; and we all really benefitted from that," said Class Honor Grad, Sgt. Ryan Valline of the 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry.