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History
Minnesota National Guard
Minnesota Soldiers enhance bases, safety for U.S. forces

CAMP ADDER, Iraq " The sands of southern Iraq are seeing new shapes on the horizon Construction is underway for "castles" built and manned by Red Bull Soldiers of the Minnesota National Guard's 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division

These castles are new Radio Relay Points built to consolidate US Army Soldiers and resources on to larger but fewer bases providing radio communications between Baghdad and the Iraq-Kuwait border in the south

"The goal was to close RRPs, and put up a bigger garrison environment to protect the Soldiers," said Maj Michael Lins, of Savage, Minn, the BCT's engineer

The concrete guard towers and more than 15-foot concrete walls prevent damage from all conventional attacks

Lins, the safety director and fleet manager for Gresser Companies Inc, Minnesota's largest masonry and concrete contractor, designed the new bases drawing inspiration from fortresses of the past

"They are very similar to how you would design a medieval castle," said Lins, a graduate of the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering

Lins worked with Soldiers of the old RRPs to incorporate modern and ancient fighting techniques into the layout of the base Similar to the use of catapults in the past, the structure features several fighting positions designed to drive a Humvee up into position to defend the base The positions allow Soldiers to fire a Humvee's turret- mounted fully automatic weapons over the high walls of the base

"The guys on the ground [at the RRPs] said, "˜how can we bring vehicles into the fight?'", said Lins
The 12 former RRPs featured impromptu wood structures and small dirt barriers for protection
The dismantling and transition of the old RRPs is being done by Soldiers from Minnesota's "Earthpigs", the Hutchinson, Minn,-based 682nd Engineer Battalion

"A lot of the guys are seeing the fruits of their labor," said engineer team leader Staff Sgt Charles Heldt of Waconia, Minn

"These guys are building the whole way through from start to finish," he said

In addition to enhanced protection, the new bases feature many upgraded amenities including living quarters and dining facilities in trailers rather than tents

"The new living conditions are 100 percent better, no bugs or dirt," said Heldt "The old dining facilities were in tents, now they are in hard stand buildings with tables and chairs,"
The new RRPs also provide greater emergency accommodations for Coalition Forces convoys traveling through southern Iraq In emergency situations the bases provide the availability of medics, lodging, fuel and mechanics

Capt Robert Metcalfe of Pequot Lakes, Minn, the assistant operations officer for the BCT's 1-34 Brigade Troops Battalion, said these new RRPS are great for convoys that have to pull off the main supply routes because of a variety of reasons that include dust storms

The building materials for the projects also are supported completely by local Iraqi contractors
"It's an Iraq first program," said Metcalfe "All contracts for the RRPs are with reputable businesses in the area"

The project of transitioning the old RRP network has also benefited Iraqi police and army units Three of the old bases have been turned over to Iraqi security forces to enhance their capabilities
The new bases have been a plan of the Army's for more than two years to improve the security and communications in southern Iraq

"Our Soldiers are benefiting from this, and the following rotations for the next couple of years will benefit," said Lins

Spc Brian D Jesness
1/34 BCT Public Affairs
1 May, 2007


May 1, Radio Relay Point photo gallery





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

Posted: 2017-06-23  02:56 PM
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.



Beyond NATO Commitments, MN State Partnership with Croatia Continues to Grow

Posted: 2017-06-22  10:25 AM
Saber Strike SPP PABRADE, Lithuania - Since 1996, the Minnesota National Guard and the Croatian Armed Forces have been partners in the National Guard's State Partnership Program. Beyond the bond of the NATO commitment, a mutual trust and unique bond has been forged amongst the warriors of each respective nation. From Camp Ripley to Karlovac, the soldiers have found a common cause of continuous improvement. Exercise after exercise, there has been a greater appreciation of one another's culture and customs.

You don't have to look to far to see this dynamic. When asked if he had ever worked with Minnesota National Guardsmen before, 1Lt Emanuel Hamer of the Croatian Armed Forces said, "This is my fourth time working with 2-136 "Bearcats," each time we grow closer and stronger. I feel like they are members of my unit. I'm glad I have this opportunity to learn new techniques and share some of our own with the Americans."



7 Nations, 4 Branches, 1 Mission; Saber Strike '17

Posted: 2017-06-20  02:14 PM
Saber Strike 17 PABRADE, Lithuania - As the sun begins to set on the Lithuanian countryside, the final touches are put on the camouflage netting designed to break the silhouette and conceal the position of the Tactical Action Center, or TAC, of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division on June 17, 2017. As part of the multinational exercise of Saber Strike '17, the 1/34th ABCT is providing support to the Air Assault Task Force Commander, Col. Charles Kemper.

As the first ever combined air and ground assault in the annual Saber Strike exercise, this year's exercise has set a milestone in testing the compatibility of seven nations and all military branches.

"We want to reassure all of our NATO Allies that we are in this together," said Kemper. "We're part of the team and we can demonstrate capability."



Minnesota Aviators complete successful eXportable Combat Training Capability exercise

Posted: 2017-06-20  08:30 AM
XCTC FORT HOOD, Texas - Soldiers from the Minnesota National Guard's 2-147th Assault Helicopter Battalion wrapped up support for an eXportable Combat Training Capability (XCTC) exercise at Fort Hood, Texas, recently. The unit was part of Task Force Ragnar, the exercise's aviation element, supporting the Tennessee National Guard's 278th Armored Calvary Regiment as they prepare for a rotation to the National Training Center in 2018.

"Our mission is to support a brigade element here," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 John Otremba, with the 2-147. "But I think our ultimate mission is to train for an austere environment which sets us up for success at NTC next year."

The task force conducted aviation support missions including air assault, sling load, deliberate attack, defensive positioning and key leader escorts. They also conducted aviation-specific training in personnel recovery, downed aircraft recovery, field maintenance and air traffic control operations.



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