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History
Minnesota National Guard
An entrepreneurial lesson from a Red Bull Soldier

Minnesota National Guard AMES, Iowa- "Nothing's ever easy," said the humble, bearded 24-year-old "You don't have to be the best to start You just have to start"

This is the mentality of a young US Army Sgt Aaron McNew, one of the creators of the acclaimed Ironman Pack and, more recently, the co-founder of The Factory CrossFit Ames He does not exactly see himself as an entrepreneur, but more as a man always out to improve himself and help others around him

"He worked the hardest of any of my Soldiers from the first day I met him," said US Army Capt Justin Foote, who was McNew's platoon leader during their 2010 deployment to Afghanistan with the Iowa National Guard "He is always moving forward bettering himself and bettering others"

While deployed as an infantry machine-gunner with the Reconnaissance Platoon, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, of the 34th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, McNew had to carry the MK-48 machine gun while on patrol throughout mountainous areas of Eastern Afghanistan Because of the heavy caliber of the weapon (762 mm), additional rounds were often cross-loaded throughout the squad It was then when he and two fellow infantrymen came up with the Ironman Pack concept

"We tried to find efficient ways to carry lots of ammo," McNew said in an interview at his new gym The squad would often get into firefights which left them scrambling for resupply of ammunition, creating lulls in fire

"It's kind of funny," he giggled, "We were watching predator one day and Jesse Ventura was carrying a machine gun and he had a pack on his back So, we were talking and I said, 'Man, we could make something like that'" And the rest is history

McNew and fellow squad members, former US Army Staff Sgt J Winkowski, and US Army Spc Derick "machine gun" Morgan, were the creators of the Ironman Pack prototype which they used in Afghanistan They were awarded Army Commendation Medals in Washington, DC, for their work on what is now being referred to as the High-Capacity Ammunition Carriage System

Fast-forward a couple years and now the resourceful infantryman is beginning his second entrepreneurial adventure in Ames, Iowa, with his same entrepreneur partner Winkowski

"[Our] squad became a very close knit family while deployed," said Winkowski "We continued to stay that way back home When I got into strength training and eventually CrossFit about a year after being home, it was McNew that was coaching and helping me over the phone and through sending texts/videos getting me to where I needed to be"

However, things were not always so easy for the formidable coach When McNew joined the Iowa National Guard, he did not know what he was getting into Weighing in at more than 300 pounds, he struggled with physical fitness Not only was he challenged at basic training and Airborne school, he came back to a deploying brigade where he was assigned as a member of the recon platoon, which touted higher physical fitness standards than the rest of the unit

Winkowski said he knew he was in for a challenge when McNew was assigned to his squad prior to the deployment Despite recommendations to reassign him to another section, Winkowski saw potential

"McNew showed a tremendous drive and there was something inside him that was pushing him beyond his physical limits He was mentally tough, we saw steady improvement," Winkowski explained "[As the deployment progressed], McNew was shedding pounds and continually gaining confidence and experience as a member of the squad"

McNew was awarded an Army Commendation Medal with Valor Device for actions in the Battle of Doab and an Army Commendation for courage under fire in a separate engagement

Throughout the deployment, and upon returning to the United States, McNew continued to practice CrossFit After a brief stint helping at a CrossFit gym in St Louis, Mo, McNew and Winkowski decided it was time to make a decision on their long-talked-about dream of opening a CrossFit gym in Iowa

"J called me up and was like, 'Hey Why don't you come back Let's get this started,'" McNew said They planned to open a gym previously and things fell through, but as the situation developed this seemed like the best time for the team

The two attended CrossFit Level 1 Instructors Course together this past June and held their soft opening for the gym Feb 10 in Ames, Iowa They anticipate having a grand opening later this year but are excited to bring in their founding members

"War isn't easy," said Foote "For them to develop the [Ironman Pack], improving the squad and operations and now others adapting it it's amazing I wish them the best of luck in everything they do They are going to do great things with this gym"

"I've fought my whole life for everything," McNew said when asked for his best advice to junior Soldiers "There's nothing you can't achieve But, if you don't try it then you're never going to do it Get up Do it"

February 25, 2014
by Sgt. 1st Class Ashley Lolkus
34th Infantry Division Public Affairs



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Minnesota National Guard leaders visit traveling tribute in Austin

Posted: 2018-05-22  10:16 AM
Traveling Wall AUSTIN, Minn. - A replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was on display May 16-20, in Austin and leaders of the 347th Regional Support Group took the opportunity to visit during the event's closing ceremony.

The display, dubbed the American Veterans Traveling Tribute, was hosted by Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Austin and featured a near-replica of the memorial in Washington, D.C.

"It was an honor to be part of this humbling and moving tribute to our Vietnam veterans," said Col. Stephen Schemenauer. "The traveling Vietnam Wall is a powerful display, and this event provided an opportunity to meet, and thank, service members from WWII to present-day conflicts. Regardless of their branch of service, or the era or conflict in which they served, we all share a common bond."



Minnesota Aviators lead multi-state National Guard partnership for NTC rotation

Posted: 2018-05-21  03:51 PM
2-147 NTC FORT IRWIN, Calif. - The Minnesota National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 147th Assault Helicopter Battalion is working together with aviation units from four different states to provide support to the Tennessee-based 278th Armored Calvary Regiment during a rotation at National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California.

Making up Task Force Ragnar is Utah-based B Company, 1st Battalion, 211th Assault Reconnaissance Battalion; Nevada-based B Company, 1-189th General Support Aviation Battalion; Michigan-based C Company, 3-238th GSAB; and Minnesota-based A, D, E and Headquarters Companies, 2-147th AHB and F Company, 1-189th GSAB.

"Early coordination with the units across four states combined with exceptional unit leadership and motivated Soldiers helped us to quickly build the task force when we closed on Fort Irwin," said Lt. Col. Kevin O'Brien, Task Force Commander. "I was thoroughly impressed with the professionalism and teamwork of task force Soldiers. This was an outstanding training opportunity that challenged every Soldier to grow as individuals and units daily."



Deployed Minnesota Guardsman honors grandfather, Hmong heritage

Posted: 2018-05-17  09:57 AM
Brandon Xiong CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait - "My heritage is Hmong," said 21 year-old Minnesota National Guard Spec. Brandon Xiong from his desk at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. "A low-key culture that originated from southern Asia. Hmong is not a place, but it is a people."

Xiong, the eldest grandson of the late Col. Song Leng Xiong, is deployed in Kuwait as an information technician for Area Support Group - Kuwait.

"We were not nomadic, but have been in many different conflicts," said Xiong. "Many places I go, I am questioned about my nationality and when answered, end up being even more confused. There is a movie called, "Gran Torino", where Clint Eastwood is introduced to the Hmong culture and I think it portrays the Hmong people not so terribly."



Month of the Military Child recognizes contributions of military kids

Posted: 2018-04-07  01:54 PM
Minnesota National Guard FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 7, 2018

ST. PAUL, Minn.- The month of April is designated as the Month of the Military Child to recognize the contributions and sacrifices military children make so their family members can serve. An estimated 15,000 children in Minnesota have been affected by the deployment of a parent.

"Military children bear a lot while their family members serve," said Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen, Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard. "It is up to us to support these resilient kids and help to lessen their burden."

An event to honor military kids in Minnesota will take place April 13, 2018, at the Mall of America rotunda from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Activities will include appearances by the Teddy Bear Band and meet and greets with Nickelodeon characters.



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