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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: 2017-04-28 12:38 PM MANKATO, Minn. - Commissioned leaders of the Minnesota National Guard convened for the 112th General Conference of the National Guard Association of Minnesota at the Verizon Wireless Center and Hilton Garden Inn, Mankato, on April 22, 2017.
The annual gathering of association members - who serve as advocates for the needs of Soldiers, Airmen and their families - includes a business meeting, commanders march, formal dining event and transfer of responsibility to the chapter's new president.
The day's event began with a business meeting, which focused on the association's mission of educating and informing legislators on the issues facing the current and future role of the National Guard in serving Minnesota communities. The strategic planning meeting was attended by Minnesota National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Richard Nash, his staff and unit commanders.
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.
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.
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."