/*********************************************** * 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 ***********************************************/
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

Articles archive

In The News archive

Media Advisory archive

Latest News

Minnesota State Fair Military Appreciation Day to recognize women veterans

Posted: 2018-08-27  12:34 PM
Minnesota National Guard FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 27, 2018

ST. PAUL, Minn.- The Minnesota State Fair's eighth annual Military Appreciation Day will take place Tuesday, August 28, and provide an educational opportunity for all fairgoers to learn about Minnesota's military community. This year's theme is honoring Minnesota's women veterans.

"The Minnesota State Fair is a great opportunity to bring our community together to show appreciation for the service and sacrifice of our state's veterans," said Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen, The Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard. "This year, I am proud to stand with women veterans as we highlight their stories and contributions to our armed forces."

Minnesota Guardsmen learn survival skills, train with Norwegian counterparts

Posted: 2018-07-03  01:36 PM
NOREX 45 Over the course of 10 days, 100 Soldiers and Airmen from the Minnesota National Guard who traveled to Norway June 17-26, 2018, for the 45th Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange learned valuable survival skills and shared their knowledge with members of the Norwegian Home Guard. This year's exchange was the second to take place during the summer months in the history of the longest-running military partnership between two nations.

"It was a great experience for both the Minnesota National Guard and the Norwegian Home Guard," said Capt. 'Kiwi' HorgA�ien, the senior Norwegian instructor. "A cultural exchange, a social exchange and military exchange all packed into one."

The 45th exchange got off to a late start, with flight delays causing the trip to be shortened from its normal length of two weeks. The delay meant that the Minnesota Guardsmen jumped right into training, heading out to the field after just a few hours of sleep.

133rd Airlift Wing Emphasizes Combat Readiness Training

Posted: 2018-06-29  10:48 AM
Alpena ALPENA, Michigan - Approximately 300 U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 133rd Airlift Wing participated in a readiness exercise at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, Alpena, Mich.

The exercise, tagged as Iron Ore, was designed test the Airmen abilities to set up operations at an unfamiliar location and receive in depth training on Ability-To-Survive and Operate (ATSO) principles while supporting airlift and aeromedical flight operations.

To ensure mission success and readiness, Airmen had to complete training at home station prior to leaving for Alpena. Some of this training included weapons qualification, gas mask fit testing, Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) familiarization, self-aid and buddy care and career field training.

Red Bulls Kickoff Division Warfighter

Posted: 2018-06-13  01:38 PM
DIV WFX CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. - "A Warfighter is an exercise that allows the Division to evaluate their ability to maneuver assets in a battle," said Master Sgt. Greg Weaver, the Operations Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge for the Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion. "It is designed to focus on particular areas and specific objectives to be evaluated or tested."

The Division has geared its' planning and training efforts in preparation for Warfighter since July 2017. Coordinating transportation for Soldiers and equipment was often on the mind of Maj. David Johansson, the logistics officer for the 34th ID. With the coordination of Johansson and his team, troops and equipment all converged on Camp Atterbury, enlisting the help of 89 railcars, 280 tractor-trailers, and nearly 50 buses for the movement.

"I like to say my job is to 'quiet the noise'". Johansson continued, "The noise being a real life logistical problem that could impede the exercise."

Article archive