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Minnesota Army National Guard

The Minnesota Army National Guard is a reserve components of the U.S Army. During times of national emergency, National Guard members may be called into active federal service by the President of the United States. Guard members from Minnesota have served in every major conflict involving United States armed forces since the Guard's inception more than 360 years ago.

During peace time, the National Guard is commanded by the governor. In its "state" role, the National Guard assists local law enforcement agencies during emergencies at the direction of the governor. The Minnesota National Guard has more than $1 billion in federal equipment that it can use to assist the state during state emergencies. The distribution of soldiers, equipment and facilities across the state allows the National Guard to respond quickly and efficiently to emergencies statewide.

The Minnesota Army National Guard includes over 9,700 men and women who belong to units that train in the Guard's 65 Training and Community Centers located across the state. They train to meet the same standards as their active duty counterparts. Most of these citizen-soldiers belong to the 34th "Red Bull" Infantry Division. The historic "Red Bull", headquartered in Rosemount, has major units in Minnesota, Iowa and North Dakota. The Minnesota units include military police, communications, armor, engineers, aviation, medical, artillery, infantry, supply, transportation, and maintenance.

The rest of Minnesota's Army Guard soldiers are assigned to either Troop Command, State Area Command or Camp Ripley. The Roseville-based Troop Command units include medical professionals, transportation, public affairs, finance and personnel specialists. Personnel assigned to Camp Ripley manage the use and facilities of the 53,000 acre training installation. State Area Command, the Army Guard's main headquarters in St. Paul, includes the Adjutant General's office and general support staff.

Minnesota formed a Territorial Enrolled Militia in 1850, but it only existed on paper until April 1856 when the first uniformed, volunteer company was formed in St. Paul. Called the Minnesota Pioneer Guards, it was a source of such civic pride that soon nine other companies were formed in St. Paul, St. Anthony (Minneapolis) and in river towns from Stillwater to Winona. Minnesota's National Guard traces its beginning to these early militia companies.

When Civil War broke out in April 1861, volunteers from Minnesota's militia formed a nucleus for the first three companies of the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Both sides in the war had to rely on volunteer regiments, battalions and separate companies recruited by the states. The "First Minnesota" is officially recognized as the senior such regiment in the Union Army because Alexander Ramsey was the first governor to offer state troops to President Lincoln. The regiment went on to serve with distinction in the Army of the Potomac and became legend as a result of its gallant charge at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863.

Minnesota eventually organized and recruited volunteers for 11 infantry regiments, two cavalry regiments, a heavy artillery regiment, three light artillery batteries and two sharpshooter companies, totalling 22,000 men. Many of these soldiers also served on Minnesota's frontier; in fact, hastily organized local militias and detached companies from several volunteer regiments were the only line of defense during Minnesota's Dakota (Sioux) War of 1862.

After the Civil War, the Minnesota Militia re-emerged to become officially known as the Minnesota National Guard. These organizations became a colorful part of community social life but when called upon never failed to deal with civil disturbances and other state emergencies requiring military aid. Annual summer encampments were held at Camp Lakeview on Lake Pepin near Lake City. Control was vested with the state and funding came largely from modest state appropriations and from the members themselves.

Minnesota's National Guard was converted to four U.S. Volunteer Regiments when the war with Spain began in April 1898. Only the First Regiment, however, was destined to see foreign service. Redesignated during the war as the Thirteenth Minnesota Volunteers, it fought Spanish troops and Filipino insurrectionists in the Philippines from 1898-99.

In July 1916, because of border raids conducted by Pancho Villa and the courting of an unstable Mexican government by Germany, President Wilson used his new legal authority to mobilize the nation's entire National Guard for patrol duty on the U.S.- Mexican border. The Minnesota Guard was sent to Camp Llano Grande near Mercedes, Texas. Although they never saw fighting, their border duty helped prepare them for a much bigger challenge: World War I.

Barely home from Texas, Minnesota Guardsmen were again mobilized when the United States entered the war against Germany in April 1917. Most went directly to Camp Cody near Deming, New Mexico, for training with a newly-organized 34th "Sandstorm" Infantry Division. The 34th consisted of Guardsmen from Minnesota, the Dakotas, Iowa and Nebraska. To the dismay of its men, however, the 34th was eventually named as a depot division and broken up. Minnesotans were reassigned and sent to France as individual replacement troops while the division was reorganized and filled with new draftees from the southwest. Fortunately, Minnesota's field artillery regiment remained intact. Redesignated as the 151st Field Artillery, it became part of the 42nd "Rainbow" Division where it fought with great distinction in France.

The years following World War I found the Minnesota National Guard preoccupied with reorganization, recruitment and armory construction. Minnesota's 109th Observation Squadron became the first federally-recognized air unit in the National Guard in January 1921. In June 1931, a new field training site was opened to troops at Camp Ripley north of Little Falls. It took its name from Fort Ripley, a long-abandoned 19th century army post which, coincidentally, had been located on land purchased for the new National Guard training camp.

With war threatening in Europe and the Far East, the Minnesota National Guard was mobilized again in February 1941. Most troops went to Camp Hahn, near Riverside, California, for coastal anti-aircraft artillery training or to Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, for training with the 34th Infantry Division.

The 34th (soon to be renicknamed as the "Red Bull" Division) became the first American Division to ship for Europe in January 1942. It fought through North Africa (where men of Minnesota's 175th Field Artillery fired the first American shells against the Nazis), and Italy. Brainerd's tank company, after training with its newly organized 194th Tank Battalion at Fort Lewis, Washington, was shipped to the Philippines in September 1941 to shore up American defenses there. When war broke out in December it fought the Japanese into the Bataan Peninsula and endured the tragic Bataan Death March. The 109th Observation Squadron ended up in Europe where it initially flew Mark V "Spitfires" with the Royal Air Force and, later, reconnaissance missions with P-51 "Mustangs."

The Minnesota National Guard became part of a newly-organized 47th "Viking" Infantry Division following World War II, and its airmen became part of a new Air National Guard.

America again found itself at war in 1950-this time in Korea. In January 1951, as a result of the massive and sudden reinforcement of North Korean forces by soldiers from Communist China, the Minnesota Guard was again called up. Many of its members were seasoned World War II vets and the 47th Division was selected to serve as a training division for two years during the Korean conflict. Most of its personnel were eventually reassigned as replacement troops in Korea or Germany. Minnesota's Air Guard was also activated, contributing pilots to Korea's "Mig Alley."

Threats by Russia to oust Western troops from West Berlin in 1961 prompted the "Berlin Crisis" and a call-up of selected National Guard forces throughout the nation. Included in this mobilization were members of the 133rd Air Transport Wing, Minnesota Air National Guard, who served in federal active service for 11 months while operating out of their home station at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport.

During the Vietnam War, although never officially mobilized, the Air Guard flew hundreds of supply and transport missions to Southeast Asia.

Growing tensions in the Persian Gulf erupted in August 1990 when Iraq invaded its tiny, enormously wealthy neighbor, Kuwait. Within months this oil-rich region experienced the largest deployment of American combat forces since World War Two. "Operation Desert Shield," intended to protect Saudi Arabia, became "Operation Desert Storm," when a US-led international coalition used its military might to quickly liberate Kuwait and destroy Iraq's army and air force.

Unlike the war in Vietnam, Desert Shield/Desert Storm made heavy use of reservists. About a fourth of all U.S. military personnel called into active duty during the Gulf War were from the National Guard and Reserves. Over 600 Minnesota Guard members volunteered or were activated with their units, including the 109th Aeromedical Evacuation Flight, 109th Light Equipment Maintenance Company, the 1187th Medical Company, and the 257th Military Police Company. The war was over by April 1991, and soon Minnesota's troops headed home to a heroes' welcome.

The 135th Public Affairs Detachment left in June 1996 for Germany to support Operation Joint Endeavor. Originally stationed in Heidelberg, Germany the Minnesota element of the 135th traveled to Eagel Base just outside Tuzla, Bosnia to cover the first free elections since the ending of the war. Later the team moved to "tent city" Steel Castle to support the 1st Armored Division Engineers by reporting stories of success in maintaining roads, demining inhabited areas and providing American military forces with more than adequate living conditions to allow soldiers to maintain health and spirit, all contributing to the success of the Balkan mission.

In August Battery E, 151st Field Artillery was deployed to Sarajevo, Bosnia. Members of the 109th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron and other volunteers also served in support of the active Army and Air Force during the year.

The Minnesota Army National Guard has more than 9,500 members in communities across the state of Minnesota and is home for the headquarters of the 34th Infantry Division. More than 8,000 of the Division's soldiers are citizens of Minnesota.

In FY99, the Minnesota Army National Guard was called to state active duty on nine missions. Members searched for evidence in a murder investigation and collected evidence in another case after a woman was abducted in northern Minnesota. During the winter storm season soldiers provided emergency shelter and rescued stranded motorists, and dusted the Thief and Red Lake Rivers with sand to reduce ice dam flood destruction on the river. Members of the MNARNG also provided security after a natural gas explosion in St. Cloud.

The Minnesota Army National Guard sent 21 soldiers from Company G, 147th Aviation, St. Paul, to Kuwait for nine months to assist in enforcing the no-fly zone over southern Iraq. In November 1999, Battery E, 151st Field Artillery was deployed to Kosovo for a seven month deployment.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:34:27 ZULU