| Minnesota National Guard prepares its largest ever deployment
The head of Minnesota National Guard says the state's largest troop deployment since World War II will take place next year More than 2,000 Minnesota citizen Soldiers will ship out to the Persian Gulf with most headed for Iraq Since the 9-11 attacks and ensuing war on terrorism, more than 3,200 Minnesota Army National Guard Soldiers have been called up for full-time service Almost 2/3rds of the troops ended up in Iraq Others have taken up duties in countries from Afghanistan to Honduras and at US military bases, and airports here at home Guard troops say Department of Defense efforts to keep them better informed and to provide more support for their families, are helping to ease the strain of their war-time service
St Paul, Minn - Until this year, much of the news from the Minnesota National Guard was about part-time troops being called up for full-time duty At ceremonies throughout Minnesota politicians wished citizen Soldiers well as they parted with their families and friends, many of them headed for combat zones
In recent months some of the same armories and airports where tearful good-byes were said in 2002, 2003 and 2004, have been places of jubilant homecomings
But soon the armories will once again be sending off Soldiers Right now, 2700 Minnesota National Guard Troops are on alert, awaiting orders
Minnesota National Guard commander Major General Larry Shellito says those orders will come in what he'll describe only as the "near term" He says the troops will deploy next year
"'05 is kind of a lot of people coming back home but shortly here we'll be having a lot of ceremonies deploying a lot more Soldiers," Shellito says, "In fact it will be our largest deployment yet"
General Shellito says the Soldiers will be all be supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom Some will be in places such as Kuwait, but Shellito says most will end up in Iraq He says it will be the first combat-zone experience for almost all of the troops
"The vast majority will have either been in Bosnia or Kosovo if they're been anywhere," Shellito says, "Keep in mind, we've recruiting a significant number of new Soldiers also so for a good number of them also it will be first-timers"
The troops on alert now have known about the upcoming deployment for weeks and likely will not be in Iraq for months That's a lot more time to make arrangements for leaving home than was given the first wave of Minnesota Guard troops sent to Iraq
"I got called up at 4:00 on, I think it was a Tuesday evening, and had to report the next morning," says Dan Henry who's a 1st Sgt with the Minnesota Army National Guard "That's how much notice we got"
In his civilian life Henry is in charge of maintaining the facilities at Cathedral High School in St Cloud He remembers well the afternoon more than 2 1/2 years ago when he learned he would become a full-time Soldier in the war on terrorism starting immediately Less than a week after getting the call up order, Henry and nearly 140 other members of 142nd engineering battalion were on their way to Colorado and then off to Iraq
"I look back on it now and it doesn't seem possible but we made it happen," Says Henry "And you know there was a lot of families that were in the same situation"
And addition to getting himself ready, Henry had to help make arrangements for two of his daughters who were also deployed with him
Since the 142nd was sent to Iraq, many more Minnesota troops have followed In all, nearly 2000 part time Minnesota Soldiers, which is almost 10 percent of the state's Army National Guard force
Three Minnesota Guard members have been killed in Iraq
Henry will soon retire from the Guard, making another deployment unlikely for him He says for other guard Soldiers, the uncertainty about deployments is difficult but something he says the military is trying to address
"I met with Senator Coleman and General Shellito from the State of Minnesota shortly after I go back," Henry says "And that's one thing that the Guard is doing is they're asking these troops that are coming back what concerns they have and that's what I brought up is that I think with the National Guard we need more parameters of exactly what we can expect -- how often we might be deployed, for what the length of the deployments are those type of questions and they're getting us some answers I think that it's finally starting to work through and they are trying to address some of those issues"
Back at headquarters General Shellito says it's in the Guard's best interest to get straight forward deployment information to troops as early as possible
"What's happening is they are trying to answer the most common complaint that initially occurred and that was predictability," Shellito says "We're working very, very hard to predict and as soon as we know something both on a national and a state level, we get that information out as quickly as possible We just have to be careful that, you know, it's not rumor but that it is based on solid, best known facts at that time"
Guard call-up policy is complicated and the Department of Defense can change the rules at will Generally troops are required to complete up to 24 months of deployment for every five years of service If they're needed beyond that, they're asked to volunteer for missions If not enough Soldiers with the required skills step forward, they can be ordered to service
Shellito says far the voluntary mechanism has been working well and he doesn't foresee having to increase mandatory deployments
"I don't anticipate that at all In fact as we've met, and I talked to the commanders, and really without exception they are impressed with the responses they have received from the Soldiers stepping forward to go," Shellito says
Soon Tom Murray, who works for the University of Minnesota's Office of Information Technology, says he'll be shipping out to Iraq for what he expects will be an 18-month deployment
He's been in the Guard for 9 years and has volunteered for numerous missions Preparing to leave now, he says, is much easier than it used to be
"I think it's changed a lot," Murray says "They have given us for instance maybe a three or four-year timeline that you know these opportunities are coming up They don't necessarily say it's going to be from this time to this time but they say okay well we're in the grab bag and if they pick our number then we're it"
Murray also says there is a lot more support now for the families of Soldiers sent away, everything from counseling to help with basics such as home repair
For decades Minnesota National Guard troops had no expectation of being sent into war zones Officials say they now tell recruits to count on deployments And, despite that, Minnesota continues to lead the in nation in Guard recruiting
by Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio
Red Bulls train for readiness and resiliency
Posted: 2015-11-30 03:05 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Soldiers of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division conducted maneuver training on Camp Ripley Nov. 21-22, 2015.
"It was a good weekend for our annual weapons qualification, we got a lot of tasks taken care of," said Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Lanoux with D Co. 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry.
The training is in preparation for the upcoming rotation at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., next summer. Fort Irwin is one of several premier training sites for the joint and combined arms training opportunities focused on tough and realistic scenarios units may face in a full spectrum operation.
Woman's Veterans Initiative Shows Major Muscle with Habitat for Humanity Build
Posted: 2015-11-25 09:37 AM
ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Minnesota Women Veterans Initiative (WVI), a group orientated toward networking Minnesota women military members and veterans brought 16 service(wo)men from all services, ages and backgrounds together, November 12, to assist in a Habitat for Humanity build. Eleven of the 16 women are current or former Minnesota National Guardsmen.
"We started celebrating Veterans Day this way in 2008 with Habitat for Humanity and enjoy coming back each year to build," said Trista Matascastillo, program officer for Veterans Voices and chairman for the WVI. "We learn new skills, build our own confidence and make new friends. There are 27,000-plus women vets in Minnesota and so often we hear that women veterans feel isolated and alone and having events like this is just another way to bring us out and together."
The group started in the morning with a brief on the tasks for the day and quickly got to work, going above and beyond by organizing the work-site and making sure there was a high attention to detail.
Empowering Girls and Influencing the Next Generation
Posted: 2015-11-17 10:51 AM
ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Minnesota Air National Guard and the Soroptimist International of the Twin Cities partnered together to present the documentary film 'Girl Rising' at the 133rd Airlift Wing on Saturday, Nov 7 2015.
The event featured a C-130 tour for any of the attendees, which included girls as young as nine. Following the tour, the documentary film 'Girl Rising' was featured and ended with a panel discussion. Topics included overcoming obstacles, mentors and people who have inspired them along the way.
"I think events like this are essential in opening our doors to the community and raising awareness about important issues not only local, but around the world - often these are places many of our wing members have deployed to," said Master Sgt. Theresa Mensinger, Diversity and Inclusion Senior Non-commissioned officer.
Duluth's 148th Fighter Wing has new leader
Posted: 2015-11-16 07:47 AM
DULUTH, Minn. - With the handing-off of the 148th Fighter Wing's flag on Saturday, Col. Jon Safstrom has become the new wing commander.
The Duluth native assumed the leadership role from Col. Frank Stokes, who is leaving Duluth after leading the 148th for more than six years to become chief of current operations at the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va.
During Saturday's Change of Command Ceremony at the Minnesota Air National Guard base in Duluth, Stokes passed the flag of the 148th "Bulldogs" to Brig. Gen. David Hamlar, who then passed the flag to Safstrom, symbolizing the accepting of the command.