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JOINT BASE LEWIS MCCHORD, Washington - Being a mom is a big responsibility. Being a National Guard Soldier on top of that can be even more difficult. But, thanks to a new Army policy, new moms can still provide for their babies while away for training.
For two new moms from the 34th Red Bull Infantry Divisionheadquarters, their two-week annual training period couldn't come at a more difficult time. They were nursing mothers and the Soldiers based out of Rosemount, Minnesota, were scheduled to attend the Yama Sakura command post exercise at Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington, beginning in early December, halfway across the country. So the new moms packed up their breast pumps and set out to take care of business.
Sgt. Kristen Jones is an information technology sergeant and mom to a six-month-old son named Brentley. She was nervous when she found out she was going to have to leave for annual training when her son was still so little. She wasn't sure whether she would have to quit breastfeeding or if she would receive the support she needed in order to pump while away.
"As soon as I had the baby and came back to drill, I knew immediately that I was going to have support," said the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, native. "Everyone in my section was so supportive. I'm in a section with a bunch of guys. I know some of them may feel a little awkward, but they still helped to find a place for me and make sure I had time to pump."
"I decided to breastfeed because it's cheaper than formula and it was convenient," said Jones. "After I started breastfeeding, I really began to bond with my baby and couldn't compare it to anything else. I'm glad I could keep up with it while we were here."
When asked what advice she would share with other new moms, Jones said to make sure to know the policy. She also said that Soldiers need to be open with leadership and not to be afraid to ask for help.
To help support new moms, the Army released a new policy effective September 2015. According to the Army's breastfeeding and lactation support policy, Soldiers who choose to breastfeed will have full support from their command to express milk during the duty day.
One of the requirements of this new policy includes designating a private space with the following criteria: It must be fully enclosed, have locking capabilities, have an electrical outlet, have access to a safe water source, and, must not be a bathroom stall.
In addition to a private space, commanders must provide time for Soldiers to express milk which can vary depending on a number of variables. Commanders and soldiers must balance lactation support with readiness, however.
Maj. Brandi DeGier, the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division protection plans officer who is also breastfeeding, said the key for successful implementation of this policy is educating leaders on why it's important. When she was a company commander, she led Soldiers who chose to breastfeed and said she always worked to get them the time and space needed. It was important to her to remain flexible for her Soldiers, to treat them fairly and recommends other commanders do the same.
Commanders who have questions about the new policy can review the policy here. DeGier said they should also research the topic in order to fully understand the needs of new mothers. One good source is the American Academy of Pediatrics that recommends mothers breastfeed for at least a year, exclusively for the first six months.
"I don't believe this policy is going to affect readiness," said DeGier, mother of 6-month-old Garrett and four-year-old Jeremy, Jr. "If anything, supporting this new policy willfully will actually increase readiness. Soldiers who feel like they are being taken care of are more likely to stay in the military."
If a commander sees this new policy as a hindrance to training, he or she is going to be perceived negatively, the Albany, Minnesota, native explained. Soldiers who feel like they have support are more likely to enjoy their time in the Guard and stay in longer.
"We are fortunate to have such supportive leaders," she said. "I've been very happy with the amount of support we've received, and I don't think the implementation of this policy is going to be an issue in the Minnesota National Guard."
December 11, 2015 by Master Sgt. Ashlee J. L. Sherrill
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.