/*********************************************** * 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
Guard team ends duty 'in the far corner of Iraq'

For 10 months, 10 Soldiers from the Minnesota National Guard led an isolated existence on the far western fringes of Iraq The troops -- including a carpenter, a mechanic, an accountant, a district manager for UPS and a Boy Scout leader -- lived side by side with Iraqi Soldiers, eating what they ate, sleeping in Iraqi military bases and riding alongside Iraqi Soldiers on missions Their job was to mentor an Iraqi Army battalion on counterinsurgency duty near the Syrian border in the volatile Anbar Province, where smuggling of large-scale weapons is suspected and where foreign fighters are believed to freely cross into the country Most of the Minnesota group, dubbed the "Desert Dragons," recently completed their mission
In the process, the Minnesotans conducted over 130 joint patrols, advised in processing over 200 detainees, and participated in 20 arrests of what were described as high-level insurgents They also learned a little about themselves, said the Moorhead-based group's commander, Maj Wade Bastian

"The last 10 months in the far corner of Iraq has been the military challenge of my life," Bastian said Thursday during a conference call with Minnesota reporters "At times you can't believe you are here doing what you are doing On the other hand, there were experiences when the opposite was on your mind, when no one could pay me enough But you do it and get the job done"

Bastian spoke to reporters in Minnesota as the Desert Dragons wrapped up their mission The idea: to give those in their home state a sense of their unusual and critical responsibilities

Tough transition

The Desert Dragons, part of the 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry, was created as a military transition team Recognizing the challenge of turning over basic military operations to a fledgling army often ill-prepared for the responsibility, US military commanders have created such transition teams of US Soldiers to work with Iraqi troops Up to 10,000 US Soldiers have been attached to Iraqi units

Some 3,000 Minnesota National Guard troops are deployed in Iraq, and the Desert Dragons are the only military transition team among them A Navy corpsman also became part of the Minnesotans' team

As part of a two-week class at a base north of Baghdad, members of the team received cultural awareness training and instruction on such things as using Iraqi military equipment

The classroom lessons quickly gave way to in-the-field improvisation when they connected with the 500-Soldier Iraqi battalion

The large majority of the Iraqi Soldiers had not been paid in six to eight months; morale was bad The base was filthy and the Minnesotans kept their own latrines under lock and key

A couple Minnesotans got sick every week at first, probably from eating an unfamiliar diet of locally bought chicken, lamb, fish, vegetables and rice, and partly out of stress

The group was assigned to an Iraqi battalion at Qaim on the Syrian border from June until October 2006, and in Rawah, 150 miles northwest of Baghdad, from October until earlier this month

At one point, almost one in six of the Iraqi Soldiers deserted, which is not uncommon The Minnesotans worked to get their Iraqi comrades paid, pushed to get overdue promotions approved and developed a database to track Soldiers

A lieutenant who is an accountant in civilian life has remained behind because his talents are still in need

Satisfied with progress

American disappointment with the progress of the Iraqi units' effectiveness has been well documented There have been many stories of Iraqi troops falling asleep at checkpoints or even working with insurgents But Bastian said he is satisfied with the Iraqi troops whom his group left in charge

"We made great progress when we were there We saw a fledgling battalion that had just been put together all the way to moving into an area that was hostile and assisting to quell the violence," he said

He also praised the concept of the transition team Embedding US Soldiers with their Iraqi counterparts produces a sense of unity that helps to build trust among the Soldiers and among civilians It is a particularly effective method of countering an insurgency, he said

"It is extremely effective," he said "You get to know the people in the communities Iraqis could tell if someone was from the area by the way they dressed or their accent There were a lot of cultural things they could pick up right away"

By Mark Brunswick mbrunswick@startribune.com

Articles archive

In The News archive

Media Advisory archive

Latest News

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."

Minnesota-based aviation unit takes part in Warfighter Exercise

Posted: 2018-06-08  11:59 AM
34ECAB WFX CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. - More than 150 Soldiers of the Minnesota National Guard's 34th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade are here participating in a multi-echelon training event, Warfighter Exercise 18-5, May 30 to June 15.

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.

148th Fighter Wing hosts STEM program for Duluth-area students

Posted: 2018-06-05  08:52 AM
Starbase Duluth DULUTH, Minn. - Dozens of community and industry leaders passionate about helping children become more engaged in science, technology, engineering and math gathered at the 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth, Minn., May 24, 2018, to see what STARBASE Minnesota Duluth is doing for young students in the area.

STARBASE is a Department of Defense youth program that engages students in STEM studies. The program began in 1991, and STARBASE Minnesota was founded in 1993 in St. Paul, which expanded to Duluth in July 2017.

Currently, the school program is open to fifth-grade students, said Charity S. Rupp, the director of STARBASE Minnesota Duluth. The summer camp will serve students in 4-6th grade. Eventually, she hopes the program will expand into STARBASE 2.0 to serve middle school students as an after school program during the academic school year.

Minnesota National Guard leaders visit traveling tribute in Austin

Posted: 2018-05-22  10:16 AM
Traveling Wall AUSTIN, Minn. - A replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was on display May 16-20, in Austin and leaders of the 347th Regional Support Group took the opportunity to visit during the event's closing ceremony.

The display, dubbed the American Veterans Traveling Tribute, was hosted by Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Austin and featured a near-replica of the memorial in Washington, D.C.

"It was an honor to be part of this humbling and moving tribute to our Vietnam veterans," said Col. Stephen Schemenauer. "The traveling Vietnam Wall is a powerful display, and this event provided an opportunity to meet, and thank, service members from WWII to present-day conflicts. Regardless of their branch of service, or the era or conflict in which they served, we all share a common bond."

Article archive