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Minnesota National Guard
Mission Complete: Bearcats Finish NATO Exercise in Lithuania's Suwalki Gap

Air Assault Saber Strike PABRADE, Lithuania - At the sound of 17 U.S. Army rotary wing aircraft humming through the air, Soldiers of the Minnesota National Guard's 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry, in addition to Service members of five NATO Allied countries, load onto Black Hawk, Chinook and Apache helicopters, at Kazlu Ruda airstrip during the Saber Strike exercise, June 17, 2017. The multinational effort came together to conduct an air and ground assault in the Suwalki Gap to demonstrate the nations' capability to respond to any hostile act of a potential adversary.

"You could tell on everyone's faces that this was go time," said Sgt. Derrick Bruestle, a team leader for 2-136th CAB, also known as the Bearcats. "It wasn't just a training exercise to them anymore, it was a serious mission with real implications on the real world."

The magnitude of the exercise set in as the first bird lifted off the airstrip and started moving toward the objective in a staggered formation. Saber Strike is a U.S. Army Europe-led NATO exercise meant to exhibit a strengthened partnership of the military assets of the NATO Alliance.

"For a National Guard unit to come out here and be in the spotlight is a big deal for us because we get to work with our foreign partners, engaging in the same mission and working together shoulder-to-shoulder for the betterment of the coalition," said Bruestle.

After arriving at the landing zone, the coalition force moved across numerous fields, ditches and dense forest, covering upwards of six kilometers through periods of pouring rain. The effort was set toward their objective where they would lay wait, uniforms saturated with water and the crisp evening air setting in a chilling factor, until dawn when they would attack through the opposition force.

"Despite spending a night in the woods, soaking wet, with almost no sleep, the Soldiers kept their morale up," said 1st Lt. Andrew T. Klein, the platoon leader of 2nd platoon, Bravo Co., 2-136 CAB.

With an early morning sunrise and fog-filled air, Klein's troops prepared for the ground assault alongside their multinational partners. Precisely at 7:00, assisted by British, Portuguese, Croatian and Lithuanian forces, the first shot was fired. Within 30 minutes the enemy had been over run and the objective was seized.

"Working with foreign allies and this level of integration is a once-in-a-career type of exercise for most of these men," stated Klein. "We hear about our NATO allies and other parts of the world on the news and this has given us a completely new perspective on how we all work together to form a stronger team."

Once seizing the objective, security was set up for a Forward Passage Of Lines to the Polish 15th Mechanized Brigade. The FPOL is a battle handoff conducted after securing a main supply route for the reinforcement of foreign troops to the northeast. Once completed, the 2-136th CAB and the rest of the Allies are able to declare mission complete.

"All I can say is that I hope that missions like this continue to come our way," said Bruestle. "The Minnesota National Guard is nothing to be taken lightly or underestimated. People recognize that and it's why we get these types of missions. The more they give us, the more we're going to shine; it's as simple as that."

June 23, 2017
by Sgt. William Boecker
1st Armored Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs



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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.



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Posted: 2018-06-29  10:48 AM
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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
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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."



Minnesota-based aviation unit takes part in Warfighter Exercise

Posted: 2018-06-08  11:59 AM
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The exercise, which is part live and part virtual, is testing the St. Paul, Minnesota-based aviation unit's ability to conduct operations and mission command in a high-intensity, complex operating environment. Soldiers are being challenged to take decisive action as they focus on air-ground operations -- or synchronizing and integrating aviation operations into the scheme of maneuver planned and conducted by forces on the ground.

In this case, the units on the ground are being commanded by the Rosemount, Minnesota-based 34th Red Bull Infantry Division, which is also participating in the exercise.



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