/*********************************************** * Chrome CSS Drop Down Menu- (c) Dynamic Drive DHTML code library (www.dynamicdrive.com) * This notice MUST stay intact for legal use * Visit Dynamic Drive at http://www.dynamicdrive.com/ for full source code ***********************************************/
History
Minnesota National Guard
Mock refugee crisis trains next generation of humanitarians

Photo by Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune CANNON FALLS, Minn - The refugee camp that sprung up in Minnesota last weekend was much like others in conflicts across the globe Exhausted refugees cried out for food Camp doctors struggled to aid the sick Soldiers toting M16s tried to keep peace

But this camp had one big difference The roughly 170 people in its drama were volunteer actors in an elaborate "humanitarian crisis simulation" that sprawled across woods and fields at a Boy Scout camp near Cannon Falls, Minn It is a weekend class offered by the University of Minnesota, with help from a half-dozen nonprofit organizations and the Minnesota National Guard -- whose soldiers act as not-so-friendly foreign government troops

One of a handful of such hands-on training camps in the nation, it is designed to give individuals considering humanitarian aid work a realistic look at the complexities ahead Given the migrant and refugee crisis exploding in Europe, it is timely instruction

"The number of humanitarian disasters and the number of people needing aid has gone up astronomically in the past decade," said Sarah Kesler, a U Department of Medicine assistant professor and co-coordinator of the course

At the same time, there's growing recognition of the critical role of humanitarian assistance, she said

"There's a new drive to professionalize it," said Kesler

The course is a step in that direction

The number of people displaced by war -- both within and outside of their countries -- reached a record 595 million last year, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees That compares to 375 million people in 2004 The war in Syria has been the single largest driver of the surge, the UN reports

Minnesotans have a long history of volunteering for international aid projects, pitching in with medical care, well-digging, agricultural support and more But those projects typically have played out in relatively stable settings, or in already established refugee camps The purpose of the simulation was to give students a taste of an emerging humanitarian disaster

"It's hard experience to get, until you get there," Kesler said

Hunger and guns

The simulation required a weekend-long commitment from its participants, actors and trainees A half-dozen camps scattered in the woods were inhabited by anguished refugees, who were visited by mock UN observers, rebel militias, supplies carriers and more during the course of the 48-hour training

The U students taking the class played the roles of disaster relief workers, working in emergency response teams for different nonprofit aid groups

On Saturday, the first group of relief workers headed to the makeshift hospital on site to gauge the medical care situation The sound of screams and groans from the small building greeted them Inside, the emergency physician -- in real life Dr Rahul Kashyap of the Mayo Clinic -- leaned over a patient He asked for a volunteer to hold the IV fluid bag and help with the exam, tiredly explaining, "I've been working nonstop"

The "relief workers" next headed to a camp plagued by malnutrition As a girl cried out for her missing parents, a woman moaned that people "were getting weaker and weaker" And "bandits have taken my husband," she said anxiously

The group later tromped through the woods to another camp, where a woman and her two children pleaded for fresh water for drinking and washing There's a river nearby, but people are using it as a latrine, the woman said

As the mother talked, two soldiers came down the road with a wheelbarrow containing bags of MREs, Meals Ready to Eat, emergency meals typically used by the military She eagerly grabbed some MREs and the soldiers trudged on

The day would hold kidnappings, death, starvation, threats by rebel insurgents, anguish and chaos The students took notes, and later created comprehensive plans to address the crisis Their final project would be their recommendations

Wenchen Wong, one of the students, got out of character for a moment as her team met with camp officials She marveled at how real the camp seemed, and at the constant dangers facing refugees

"This is amazing," said Wong "Everything seems so real I'm learning so many things"

It's also a terrific learning experience for the Minnesota National Guard, said Maj Noelle Racette, who oversaw a contingent of young men in fatigues and fake M16 rifles

"It's an opportunity for them to train in a real-life situation," said Racette "They learn situational awareness, working in teams, working in a fluid environment And it's great for students because when they go to other countries, they will run into military entities"

For actors representing global relief agencies, the simulation was a chance to share their years of experience with students PJ Doyle, a Minneapolis volunteer for the international Red Cross, played herself, visiting camps, registering people by name and tracking down missing loved ones

"I'm going to suggest that next year we bring in even more [Red Cross] volunteers," Doyle said

The class, which ended Sunday, marked the fourth year that Minnesota hosted such an event, said Eric James, co-coordinator of the course James, who previously taught a class on humanitarianism at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, said the camp grew out of an awareness that students needed more than classroom teaching to understand disaster relief work

Racette agreed, joking there was another advantage: "A day in the woods beats a day behind a PowerPoint presentation"

September 14, 2015
Jean Hopfensperger, Star Tribune


Story and photos from last year's event
Article source
http://www.startribune.com/mock-refugee-crisis-trains-next-generation-of-humanitarians/327237711/



Articles archive

In The News archive

Media Advisory archive

Latest News

100 Years Ago, Camp Cody's "Grand Old Man" formed 34th Infantry Division

Posted: 2018-01-18  12:59 PM
Gen. Augustus Blocksom Decorated veteran Augustus Blocksom was a man of his time, but times were changing. He exemplified Progressive Era America prior to the Great War. Blocksom participated in all the major US Army campaigns for nearly a half-century. He fought American Indians, Spaniards, Chinese and Filipinos. He brought that experience to Camp Cody, New Mexico where he assembled units from across the mid-West to form the 34th Infantry Division in 1917.



Iowa Red Bull takes command of 34th Infantry Division

Posted: 2017-12-13  10:11 AM
Minnesota National Guard JOHNSTON, Iowa - Brig. Gen. Benjamin J. Corell, Deputy Adjutant General of the Iowa National Guard, assumed command of the 34th Infantry Division "Red Bulls" during a ceremony in Rosemount, Minnesota, on December 9, 2017.

Headquartered in Minnesota, the division has been commanded almost-exclusively by members of the Minnesota National Guard since 1968.

"Typically there's been very few people who have been allowed to command the 34th Infantry Division that didn't come from the state of Minnesota," Corell said.



Minnesota-based aviation unit honors storied division, enters into new, 'expeditionary' era

Posted: 2017-12-12  11:29 AM
Minnesota National Guard ST. PAUL, Minn. - Soldiers of the Minnesota National Guard's 34th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade (ECAB), who recently celebrated a year full of achievements, have embraced a new name: Red Devils.

The St. Paul-based unit hosted its annual aviation brigade ball Dec. 9, at the Envision Event Center in Oakdale, Minnesota, where the unit's new logo was unveiled.

Soldiers of the 34th ECAB, which falls under and supports the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division, will continue to wear the Red Bull insignia on their uniforms. However, they will now be known and referred to as the Red Devils, a name that pays homage to the division's historical accomplishments and fierce warfighting.



Minnesota Nice Extends to Puerto Rico

Posted: 2017-12-08  12:08 PM
Minnesota National Guard CAMP SANTIAGO, Puerto Rico - It has been more than two months since Hurricane Maria stuck Puerto Rico, leaving a trail of disaster behind it. The island was in dire need of some extra help. More than 230 Air National Guardsmen from 29 states have been deployed to the island and are helping in any way they can.

Eleven of those Airmen are from the Minnesota National Guard's 148th Fighter Wing out of Duluth, Minn. and the 133rd Airlift Wing out of St. Paul, Minn., are no exception in their desire to lend a helping hand. They have been at Camp Santiago, Puerto Rico, since before Thanksgiving and will leave around mid-December. Their mission is to feed military and civilian hurricane relief workers, giving them the much-needed fuel to complete their mission throughout the day.



Article archive
 
top