Year in Review Part 1 of 3: Soldiers and Airmen key to Minnesota National Guard’s state and federal missions

Minnesota Guardsmen conduct no-cost COVID-19 testing for members of the public, Monday, May 25, 2020, at the National Guard armory in Faribault, Minnesota. In partnership with the Minnesota Department of Health, the Minnesota National Guard conducted COVID-19 testing at six locations in Minnesota over a period of three days to any Minnesotan who wanted to be tested. (Minnesota National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens)

December 8, 2020 (ST. PAUL, Minnesota) — The Minnesota National Guard has had a busy 2020, supporting federal deployments and an unprecedented number of state activations for COVID-19 response, civil unrest and even flood response. None of these missions would have been possible, however, without the readiness of Minnesota’s citizen-Soldiers and Airmen to respond at a moment’s notice.

“Our Airmen and our Soldiers are the most important thing that we have and without quality Airmen and quality Soldiers, we can’t do the missions that we’re asked to do,” said Maj. Gen. Shawn Manke, the Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard.

The Minnesota National Guard completed more state activation missions in 2020 than in the four previous years combined. The Guard’s support covered COVID-19 response, civil disturbance and flood response over more than 300 days totaling more than 100,000 man days (one day’s work by one person). At the height of the Guard’s response in May, there were over 7,000 Guardsmen on duty at once.

In addition, the Minnesota National Guard has continued to deploy Soldiers and Airmen in support of several missions across the globe. Early in 2020, the Minnesota National Guard welcomed home several small units from the 347th Regional Support Group – the 247th Financial Management Support Detachment, a casualty liaison team from the 147th Human Resources Company and the 1904th Acquisition Team – as well as Airmen from the 133rd Airlift Wing and 148th Fighter Wing, followed by the return of more than 500 soldiers from the 34th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade. At the same time, the Minnesota National Guard deployed Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry, Battery C, 1/194 Field Artillery, 34th Military Police Company and the 177th Cyber Protection Team. Currently, there are nearly 1,000 Minnesota Guardsmen deployed in support of operations in the U.S., Cuba, Afghanistan and Djibouti. 

This increased operations tempo asks a lot from the Soldiers and Airmen who are leaving their civilian jobs or schools to serve the state and nation. The Minnesota National Guard is committed to making sure that Soldiers and Airmen are trained and ready to respond to any missions that are required, while continuing to take care of service members and their families.

To ensure Soldiers and Airmen and their families are taken care of during this challenging time, the Minnesota National Guard has adjusted many of its programs and services to be more responsive and adaptive to COVID-19 restrictions.  The Minnesota National Guard’s Yellow Ribbon Reintegration program has gone virtual, continuing to provide resources and courses for service members and families before, during and after deployments.

The Minnesota National Guard family programs has restructured, with Soldier and Family Readiness Support specialists in 14 locations across the state, as well as family readiness support at both Air wings. These readiness specialists offer resources, referrals and support to Minnesota National Guard members and their families. Family readiness specialists are also focused on distributing information about resources available during the pandemic via email and social media.

Minnesota National Guard programs like suicide prevention, substance abuse, education and the sexual harassment and assault response program have doubled down on their efforts to reach out to service members during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the increased level of financial and emotional stress brought about by the pandemic, psychological health coordinators, chaplains and financial advisors are available for all service members. To learn about resources available to service members and their families, visit https://mnngpublicmain.azurewebsites.us/covid-19-resources/

As 2020 comes to a close, the Minnesota National Guard remains focused and ready to support Minnesota’s continued COVID-19 response, and any other requirements the state may have.

“I want to create an organization where Soldiers and Airmen feel valued for what they contribute and that they have pride in the units they serve in,” said Manke.

Minnesota National Guard Year in Review: People video

Story by Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens, Minnesota National Guard public affairs