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Minnesota National Guard
MN National Guard chief on continuing work in Afghanistan

Minnesota National Guard In his State of the Union address, President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to formally end the war in Afghanistan by the end of this year

More than 200 members of the Minnesota National Guard are still deployed in Afghanistan Last week, five of them were wounded in a Taliban attack on their base

MPR News' Cathy Wurzer spoke with Major General Richard Nash, who's Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard, about the future of the Minnesota National Guard in Afghanistan -- and beyond

Below is a transcript of their conversation, edited for clarity and length

WURZER: About the five Minnesota National Guard soldiers injured in Afghanistan last week, I know one was sent to Germany for treatment, the others are in Afghanistan Can you update us on their condition?

NASH: Sure, I'd be happy to, Cathy I think you understand, and your listeners, I can't provide specific medical details due to HIPAA and privacy act requirements But I can confirm and update you that there are two soldiers that were transported back to Washington DC to Walter Reed [National Military Medical Center] for further medical care And three soldiers received care in Afghanistan and are expected to return to duty with their military unit We did have a senior leadership visit with soldiers at Walter Reed and they're well on their path to recovery, though, Cathy So I appreciate your asking

WURZER: How does an incident like this suicide bombing and the injuries to their comrades affect the entire state guard?

NASH: Well certainly we have not had casualties or injuries, serious injuries, like this for quite some time So it does, I think, send the message to all Minnesotans and across the nation that it's still very dangerous in Afghanistan, as the president stated last night that we were drawing down our forces this year and complete our combat operations at the end of December But we still are doing operations, obviously dangerous operations in Afghanistan Our soldiers are well-trained and well-led and this is an unusual situation -- an attack on an actual base So we still believe that we'll be able to accomplish our mission

WURZER: What specific work is the Guard doing in Afghanistan these days?

NASH: Soldiers like this from the 849th engineer Mobility Augmentation Company are really working on roads, in terms of clearing them of IEDs [improvised explosive devices] and providing the ability to have other organizations use that to conduct their mission So they do road clearing of IEDs and breaching of obstacles if needed So that's really the specific mission that this unit was undertaking

WURZER: You mentioned the president's speech He wants to keep a small group of troops in Afghanistan for training the Afghan military Could the Minnesota National Guard be asked to be part of that small force for training?

NASH: I would only be speculating, Cathy, but those are certainly some of the tasks that we've been doing for the last 13 years as we conducted combat operations side-by-side with our active duty counterparts, as well as peace enforcement, peace-keeping operations in Bosnia and Kosovo as you're well aware And so, we're trained to do that We have done those, and so it's really up to our national military authorities to decide if those are the types of missions that we would continue after December, if they agree on a status-of-forces agreement

WURZER: So it could be a possibility

NASH: I would only be speculating, but certainly, we have the capabilities and the training, and have the experience in doing that

WURZER: Will we see any more Minnesota National Guard deployments to Afghanistan before the year is out?

NASH: We will have continued deployments in 2014 We will have some that will be replacement for operations going on in Kuwait But, there's always pending missions within a certain notification time that we will have to respond to, but we do not anticipate any large deployments as you mentioned, you know, 280 plus or minus that we currently have in Afghanistan I would expect we'll be at a 300 mobilization number for at least this year, and we still have other commitments around the globe as you know that we will be tasked, I'm sure, to assist with active duty counterparts

Transcription by MPR News reporter Liala Helal
Article source with audio
http://www.mprnews.org/story/2014/01/29/news/minnesota-national-guard-afghanistan



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