The National Guard Bureau reported recently that more than 4,000 soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Minnesota National Guard, will have its Iraq tour extended by up to 125 days, about four months, as part of the surge in American forces announced by President Bush as part of his new military strategy.
The addition of troops to Iraq will impact about 3,000 Minnesota National Guard soldiers, plus more than 1,000 soldiers from other states, including Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Nebraska, who were assigned to the 1st BCT.
According to Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs Officer Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Olson, “The 1st Brigade, which consists of the Minnesota National Guard and a number of other National Guard units, were selected because of their agility and their ability to get the job done right.” Olson, who was quoted in an article by the National Guard Bureau, also said, “Our citizen-soldiers are perfectly magnificent.”
More than 25,000 National Guard soldiers from across the United States are deployed to Iraq in support of the Global War on Terror. The announcement of the 1st Brigade’s extension came amid a flurry of similar announcements for other Army units. The additional troops will contribute to the 21,500 soldier force the President is deploying to try to bring security to the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad.
Recognizing the impact on soldiers’ families, the National Guard Bureau quoted Olson as saying, “We acknowledge that it is a sacrifice for our families and places a great deal of burden on them.” To help with that burden, the Minnesota National Guard is extending its assistance to families affected by the President’s troop surge, including providing military family-life consultants and a full-time mental health coordinator.
According to the National Guard Bureau, Lieutenant General H. Steven Blum, Chief of the Bureau, told the Congressional newspaper The Hill that National Guard soldiers would be ready to serve if called upon to support the President’s new strategy. Blum was quoted as saying, “If the nation needs us, we will do it.”
Several of our nation’s leaders have gone on record praising the contributions of the National Guard to the defense of the country. According to the National Guard Bureau, citizen-soldiers have been involved in operations around the world, including Bosnia, Kosovo, the Sinai, the Horn of Africa, Guantanamo Bay and other locations, since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Information for this article was obtained from “Surge Extends Minnesota Guard Unit’s Iraq Tour,” by Sgt. Jim Greenhill, National Guard Bureau.