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Minnesota National Guard
Minnesota National Guard partners with University of Minnesota for humanitarian response exercise

Minnesota National Guard CANNON FALLS, Minn- The Minnesota National Guard recently partnered with the University of Minnesota to assist in a humanitarian crisis simulation that gave some Minnesota graduate students an idea of what it's like to work in a refugee camp

"This is our third year of doing this exercise and the overall aim is to give people a sense of what it's like to respond to an international and humanitarian disaster - in particular, a refugee crisis where people have fled across a border," said Dr Eric James, co-director for the course

The Minnesota National Guard was asked to be involved with this exercise to provide a sense of realism in portraying how aid workers might interact with the military in a crisis situation

"The role of the National Guard in this scenario is to support the students by being the host nation security force as well as the rebel force operating in the area," said Staff Sgt Seth Martell "We primarily try to disrupt them, disrupt their activities, gather information on possible convoys and support moving through the area and also to lead them down paths to nowhere as far as what they're trying to achieve"

The exercise took place at the Camp Philippo Boy Scout Camp in Cannon Falls, Sept 5-7 Approximately 50 students and 30 members of the Minnesota National Guard participated, along with medical staff from the Mayo Clinic and the Army Reserve

"They provide an element of realism and having the military focus on things like security adds a depth and dimension that without them we wouldn't be able to achieve," said James

The Minnesota National Guard also provided a period of instruction to the students on resilience that was based on the Army's resilience training and tailored to the unique stress and conditions that one might experience working in a refugee camp

The partnership with the University of Minnesota is part of an ongoing effort by the Minnesota National Guard to build and maintain relationships with local, state and federal agencies

"We work with a lot of interagency partners through Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the Minnesota Department of Health, and the University of Minnesota is just the next step along that path and along that line of effort," said Martell "It gives us an idea of, when we're working with interagency partners, what their expectations and what their planning capabilities are"

In addition to building partnerships, the exercise provided many benefits for the National Guardsmen who participated Many of the military role players came from the Minnesota National Guard's Recruit Sustainment Program, which prepares new recruits for success in basic training During the exercise, the Soldiers were able to conduct some military-type training such as how to set up a checkpoint and to practice that skill in a training environment

"They're interacting with civilians who see them in a military capacity so they're able to start developing their professionalism and understanding how the other side sees them and what they can expect moving forward in a domestic type of response," said Martell

Building relationships and training with interagency partners improves the Minnesota National Guard's ability to respond to disasters and support communities during emergencies

"I really think that this is a great opportunity to take the U of M and fuse them with the Minnesota National Guard and see two extremely different organizations that have different end states, but also different strengths, come together for a common goal," said Martell "It really shows how the Minnesota National Guard is not just a kinetic operating force, but we are a force that can actually help our domestic partners and our state partners to reach a common objective"

September 11, 2014
by Master Sgt Blair Heusdens
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs

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