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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
Posted: 2017-03-24 10:19 AM CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Every spring Camp Ripley begins its annual controlled burn program to help reduce the risk of wildfire during training.
"Usually the burns are completed every spring before the summer annual training season begins," said Tim Notch, training area coordinator on Camp Ripley. "However, the warmer weather conditions provide a nice opportunity for preventative burns earlier this season."
As in years past Camp Ripley will conduct controlled burns on approximately 13,000 acres of the 53,000-acre military reservation. The burns are done in coordination with the staffs of the Camp Ripley Department of Public Works and the Camp Ripley Environmental Department along with support from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Posted: 2017-03-23 09:46 AM DULUTH, Minn. - Pfc. Trevor Nelson received the Minnesota Distinguished Recruiting Ribbon and a Minnesota Recruiting and Retention Battalion medallion for excellence from Command Sgt. Maj. Curtis Serbus, March 18, 2017, at the Duluth Armory. Nelson earned these awards as part of the online referral system, Leads 2 Enlistment for referring four friends who have joined the Minnesota National Guard.
"I talked to some buddies in my school about the Guard. They liked the benefits, so I put their info in the app and let my recruiter take over." said Nelson. "I thought it would be fun to serve with friends and help them figure out their path in life."
Nelson is currently a senior at Cloquet Senior High School and assigned to the Recruit Sustainment Program in Duluth. He attended basic training at Fort Benning in the summer of 2016 with follow-on training in the summer of 2017 to become an infantryman.
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.
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.