Minnesota Red Bulls to Welcome New Leadership Team

October 31, 2019 (ROSEMOUNT, Minnesota) — Brig. Gen. Mike Wickman and Command Sgt. Maj. Stephen Whitehead will assume leadership roles of the Minnesota National Guard’s 34th Red Bull Infantry Division during an event Sunday, November 3rd at 10:00 at the Rosemount Armory. Wickman will take over as the division’s Commanding General for Maj. Gen. Ben Corell, while Whitehead takes over responsibility as the Senior Enlisted Leader from Command Sgt. Maj.  Joseph Hjelmstad.

This transition of leadership comes as more than 650 of the division’s Red Bull Citizen-Soldiers continue their reintegration after a recent 10-month long deployment to the Middle East. The Minnesota unit was responsible for leading U.S. Central Command’s Task Force Spartan, which increases military readiness and capability, in order to maintain regional stability and partnerships. The Red Bull Division led several brigades during its tour, including air defense artillery, field artillery, engineers, armor and aviation. Spread-out to locations in nearly 20 countries, the brigades amassed to more than 9,000 service members to support Task Force Spartan in providing capabilities such as aviation, logistics, force protection and information management.

Wickman, a Saint Paul resident, also serves as the Minnesota National Guard’s Assistant Adjutant General – Army. Whitehead, a Rosemount native, currently serves as the National Commander of Disabled American Veterans (DAV), a congressionally chartered veterans service organization. Corell and Hjelmstad continue their National Guard service as the leadership team of the Iowa National Guard.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Media members interested in attending should RSVP with Sgt. 1st Class Ben Houtkooper at Benjamin.J.Houtkooper.mil@mail.mil or (612) 805-5769. Interviews may be available upon request from 9 – 9:45am on Sunday. Division b-roll is available at https://dvidshub.net/r/8axule and photos at https://dvidshub.net/r/tdxpze.

The 34th Red Bull Infantry Division’s story:

Today’s Red Bulls have a long heritage of service to state and nation, dating back to the Civil War. Three Minnesota infantry and field artillery regiments proudly trace their lineage to Civil War units,  including the 1st Minnesota Infantry, whose famed counter-charge at Gettysburg saved the Union  line and likely the battle.

The 34th was created in the late summer of 1917, four months after the United States entered World War I,  from National Guard troops of Minnesota, Iowa, the Dakotas  and Nebraska. Training  was conducted at Camp Cody, New Mexico, where dusty wind squalls swirled through the area each  day. This gave the new division a nickname: the “Sandstorm Division.”

A few months later, the new Sandstorm Division deployed to France. While many Soldiers were  assigned to other divisions individually, five units of the 34th remained intact and served honorably. The 151st Field Artillery and the 168th Infantry Regiment served under the 42nd Rainbow Division  and earned six streamers. The 125th Field Artillery, 135th Infantry, and 136th Infantry also earned streamers during World War I. After the First World War, the 34th was reorganized with National  Guardsmen from Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota, and was federally recognized in 1924.

The 34th was the first U.S. division to land in Europe in World War II. German troops called the  division’s soldiers “Red Devils” and “Red Bulls.” The division later officially adopted the nickname Red Bulls. Soldiers of the 34th honed their fighting skills in the African Campaign, and pushed the  Germans up the Italian boot in the longest combat tour of the war. Some Red Bull units served 611  days in combat. They experienced a high casualty rate as they took the most-defended hills of the  war during intense battles with enemy forces.

Since 9/11, the 34th has served in all major conflicts, including numerous combat deployments  and humanitarian missions to Afghanistan, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Egypt, Honduras, Iraq and Kosovo.  In 2006, the Red Bulls’ 1st Brigade Combat Team served one of the  longest U.S. military tours in Iraq. In 2009, the division headquarters provided command and control for 16,000 U.S. military service members operating in Iraq. In 2010, the Red Bulls’ 2nd Brigade Combat  Team deployed to Afghanistan where they conducted “Operation Bull Whip,” a successful air assault mission in Laghman Province. 2011 saw the 1st Brigade Combat Team deployed to Kuwait in support of the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and the end of Operation New Dawn.

Units of the 34th have also served their hometown communities in response to fire, flood, search  and rescue, as well as winter rescue operations. The division celebrated its centennial on August 25,  2017, and deployed to Kuwait from 2018 to 2019 to assume command of Task Force Spartan in support of Operation Spartan Shield.