| 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
Minnesota National Guard contract acquisition team to deploy
Posted: 2017-01-15 04:44 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Four Soldiers from the Minnesota Army National Guard's Little Falls-based 1903rd Support Detachment, 347th Regional Support Group will deploy for a nine-month contracting mission at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel.
"The Soldiers are motivated, trained and ready for their upcoming mission. We will contract for the necessary services and supplies to support the warfighter," said to Lt. Col. Michael Lange, the team commander.
Jensen takes command of historic 34th Red Bull Infantry Division in its 100th year
Posted: 2017-01-13 01:54 PM
Brig. Gen. Jon Jensen, Minnesota National Guard Director of the Joint Staff, took command of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division, Jan. 8, 2017, as the Division marks its centennial anniversary.
"2017 marks a historic year for the Red Bulls as we begin celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 34th Infantry Division," said Maj. Gen. Richard C. Nash, Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard. The Division, then known as the "Sandstorm Division," was created in 1917 from National Guard troops of Minnesota, Iowa, the Dakotas and Nebraska.
Jensen is the second native of Council Bluffs, Iowa, to hold the position and joins a long line of commanders who have led the Division through both of the World Wars up to the current Global War on Terrorism.
Military, Civilian Response Agencies Train for Super Bowl 2018
Posted: 2017-01-12 09:34 AM
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Soldiers and Airmen with the Minnesota National Guard's CBRN Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP) and Twin Cities emergency service personnel with MN Task Force One endured single-digit temperatures at the WestRock paper mill in St. Paul, Minn., Jan. 7, 2017, for a joint training exercise.
The 203-person CERFP conducts command and control, search and extraction, decontamination and medical operations to assist civil authorities in providing disaster response. It is comprised of Soldiers from the 84th Troop Command, 682nd Engineer Battalion and 434th Chemical Company, and Airmen from the 133rd Airlift Wing Medical Group.
This was the second joint training exercise the CERFP and MN Task Force One have conducted together, said Maj. Ryan Cochran, the Deputy Commander of the Minnesota CERFP.
NOREX 44 'Away Team' assembles in preparation for annual exchange
Posted: 2017-01-11 01:21 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - The contingent of soldiers and airmen from the Minnesota National Guard preparing for the annual U.S.-Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange assembled for their first formal training event Saturday and Sunday at Camp Ripley Training Center.
The preparatory drill weekend, which took place one month before 103 members of the Minnesota National Guard embark to Norway as part of the "away team" for the two-week military and cultural exchange event, was held to provide information on the exchange and, more importantly, allow an opportunity for these service members from units across the state to come together as one team.
"It's a good opportunity to meet people from diverse backgrounds in an accelerated environment," said Army Sgt. 1st Class David Wentzel, with the 1st Battalion, 125th Field Artillery. "This experience is what they're going to make of it, and they're making the most of it."