ON Point Exclusive: With the Minnesota National Guard by Andrew Lubin
02-22-2007, 02:47 PM • by ON Point

 

Some of the toughest soldiers I’ve met in Iraq aren’t even active duty. Headquartered in Crookston, Minnesota, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 136th Combined Arms Battalion is commanded by Captain Chip Rankin, who, as a civilian, is a high school science teacher.

 

These Minnesota Guardsmen are the quintessential citizen soldiers.  They closed their businesses, said goodbye to their wives and children, and came over here to fight for their country. Two-thirds of them already served in Bosnia and Kosovo 2003 – 2004.  Despite that, 75 % of those eligible – many in their later 30’s and early 40’s – volunteered again for duty in Iraq in order to fight for their country.

 

Their ranks consist of men like Sgt Scott Stroud, age 44, whose family military history goes back to Civil War with his two grandfathers who were generals in the Union Army.  Stroud’s uncle served as a command sergeant major in both World War II and the Korean War. Sergeant Stroud volunteered after 9/11, and has been awarded 2 Bronze Stars to date.

 

Bravo Company is part of the 1st BCT, 34th Infantry Division, a unit comprised of national guardsmen from Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, and N. Dakota. Although there are individual infantry and artillery units in 1/34, Bravo Company is unique in that they are mech-infantry – they bring 3 infantry platoons, 1 section of Bradleys, and a mortar platoon to the fight.

 

Mech infantry is a hybrid animal. Working with Bradleys and Humvees extends the scope and range of an infantry platoon, as well as gets them to the fight quicker.  Because they have their own mortar platoon, Bravo Company has a hot-guns capacity that enables them to play offense or defense with equal skill.

 

Under Captain Rankin’s command, they use this flexible and lethal force on both offensive and defensive missions both singly, and in conjunction with the Marines of 1st MEF Headquaters Group, or MHG.  Bravo Company is in the unusual situation of reporting to MHG, as well as having 14 individual Marines assigned who will fight with them. The Marine Corps is responsible for Anbar Province, and when they called for additional manpower, Bravo Company was the augment. There was consternation on both sides; the Marines were worried about the Guardsmen’s training, and the Guardsmen had the same worries.

 

Perhaps being Guard, and as civilians are used to working and living across all spectrums of society and business, Bravo integrated easily with the Marines. In part, this is because the Guardsmen are from small town and villages, and many serve with their brothers and cousins.  Sgt Stroud’s older brother is Major Shawn Stroud, who is in the active-duty army. Sgt Erik Marts has a brother in the unit, whose name I didn’t get.  At least 1 father-son team is said to be in the company.  These family bonds create a premium on small-unit leadership exactly like in the Marines.

 

Additionally, as Guardsmen, they bring some necessary civilian skills to the fight. Bravo Company has four cops in the unit.  This gives them an ability to recognize an unusual situation, sniff out a bad guy, arrest him properly so there’s no outcry and bag and tag evidence correctly.  The Minnesota boys have a 68 % retention rate off of their arrests – that’s an outstanding rate for an American unit in Iraq today.

 

Before deploying, Bravo trained at Camp Shelby for six months, and then did their “theatre immersion” training at Fort Polk, Texas. They practiced convoy escort duty, civil affairs missions and Humvee patrols. The end result of seven months of training?  Bravo Company scored higher than many active-service Army units during their final qualification exercise.

 

In Iraq, they have build trust with local villagers. In late January, Bravo learned of three innocent Iraqis who were being held in a house.  Bursting in during early morning hours, 1st Squad, under Lieutenant Tim Sevcik, found three Iraqi men bound in chains and previously tortured.  One had been tortured with chisels. Sgt Nathan Neiman and Spc Douglas Aas also found lead pipes and knives. The walls and floors were caked with dried blood, they said.

 

After rescuing and debriefing the Iraqis, 1st Squad discovered that eight other locals, and possibly more, had been recently executed by insurgents.  Upon detailed investigation, SFC Erik Marts found a human head that had to be later identified.  The building later became known as the “torture house.”  The soldiers know who was responsible, but the torturers are on the run.  However, they are no longer in the village.

 

These Guardsmen can also fight.  During the Marine Change of Command ceremony, Bravo Company was tasked with the responsibility for the security outside the wire.  The day before the ceremony, Capt Rankin took his three platoons and his Bradleys out to push the perimeter back beyond normal Iraqi mortar range. With his own mortars from 3rd Platoon manned and ready, the “Thunder Guns” under SFC Scott Propelka were set to support the Bradley’s, foot patrols, and mounted patrols immediately as they received a fire mission.

 

Captain Chip Rankin, sciene teacher and American warrior, interrogating an Iraqi prisoner.

 

 

And fight they did. On the day of the change of command, the Bradley’s found a blue “bongo truck,” behaving suspiciously.  The truck engaged, and the soldiers used a Bradley’s chain gun to chase it into some trees.  After that, they tried to take it out with the mortars. Those were ineffective, so Marines of India Battery 3/12, who were manning the big 155 mm howitzers, took out the truck in a crashing barrage of HE artillery that could be heard for miles.

 

The fighting continued through the day.  A Bradley lost a track to an IED.  More mortar mission were called.  By the end of the 2-day mission, Bravo Company had inflicted 6 KIA’s, taken several enemy prisoners, and acquitted themselves with distinction. The transfer of authority between I and II Marine Expeditionary Force (which ON Point reported last week) continued undisturbed under Bravo’s security blanket.

 

The next day, the MHG held their own change of command, attended both by the Marines and Guardsmen not out on patrol.  Colonel George Bristol, the outgoing commander and a leader loved by Bravo, expressed his feelings:  "These Minnesota boys... I'd take them anywhere.  They're that good."  

 

And their reward for being “that good?” They’ve been extended 125 days. From their call-up and workup at Camp Shelby, Louisiana, they’ve been away from home for 509 days.  At this writing, they have 159 days to go. Their deployment puts them in the running for the dubious honor of being the Guard unit with the longest single combat deployment tour in American history.

 

But Bravo is too busy to bitch about it.  They’re going out on patrol again.

 

 

ON Point’s Andrew Lubin just returned home from his embed in Iraq. 

 

 


Email It! Digg! Discuss It

C Bechtel said:
Always PROUD to see the 34th Division (Red Bull) Patch! It has a long proud history!
February 22, 2007 03:45 PM

Larry M said:
This needs to be put out in the mainstream channels. I'm sick and bloody tired of the drive by mainstream media harping how Americans are sick and tired of the war on terror and don't want to fight anymore. It's drivelle that needs to be thrown into the trash onlong with those expound the lying anti-American proganda. They are doing exactly what the terrorist want them to do. Oorah for all our service personnel no matter where they are or what their MOS is.
February 22, 2007 04:41 PM

"Doc" Swafford said:
As a former resident of Bemidji, Mn. I have a step-son serving with this honorable unit. He is a Sergeant and serves a gunner on a Humvee. Previously he served on active duty in Kosovo and since the Iraq invasion as been on tap to go back.
I may worry and I think constantly of his safety, but this one unit I do take confidence in! I personally know many of the men that have passed through those doors at the Bemidji National Guard Unit.
Inspite of the fact that I served my time in Vietnam with the First Marine Division 1st Battalion 7thMarines as an FMF Corpsman only serves to encourage me that the men and women of the Red Bull are being watched and covered by the best!
OORAH, Semper Fi

"Doc"Swafford
February 22, 2007 04:48 PM

msfloores said:
Bravo, and a Hearty Well Done, Boys from Minnesota !!! To me THIS is as Good
as it gets and THIS is the Heart of America. We will continue to hold you all
high in Prayer, we are so proud of You anf the Outstanding job you are doing !

ms floores, Vietnam Vet. USN
February 22, 2007 04:51 PM

M VINCE TURNER said:
>>> "1st Squad, under Lieutenant Tim Sevcik, found three Iraqi men bound in chains and previously tortured. One had been tortured with chisels. Sgt Nathan Neiman and Spc Douglas Aas also found lead pipes and knives. The walls and floors were caked with dried blood, they said. After rescuing and debriefing the Iraqis, 1st Squad discovered that eight other locals, and possibly more, had been recently executed by insurgents." <<< All in the name of Allah, no less! These Guardsmen are awesome, and demonstrate the true fSpirit of the American Fighting Men. Hooo-uh! Soldiers! Godspeed!

February 22, 2007 05:12 PM

Major (Retired) ALFREDO OLIVERA said:
Iam a soldier infantry.- I think of your troops fightings for the liberty and democracy.- And the most important razon, for yor country.- Sorry for my english redaccion.- May (R) OLIVERA
February 22, 2007 08:07 PM

Paul W. Craig II, M.D. (Formerly Major, USAF,MC,FS) said:
Great story. If only the rank and file in America were as didicated to seeing this thing through in Iraq as the troopers in Bravo Company. We always leave that is the problem. The only way to win in Iraq is for the terrorists to truly believe that we are there for the duration because it is the right thing to do. This is an open ended war and will never likely have an ending that is clean cut. Politicians always go with expediency and we lose trust the world over. The good that goes on rarely gets reported. I wish CNN would air the segments you write about. The number of people that would be murdered if we left would be atrocious. As a former USAF Flight Surgeon and Desert Storm veteran I know how it feels to leave a job undone, I hope we don't do that to these people again.
February 22, 2007 08:30 PM

David Aguiar , Sgt (ABN) Retired said:
Men of great resolve. Do un common deeds commonly.
February 22, 2007 10:07 PM

Chuck Richardson said:
These Mn Guardsmen are a tough crowd - from 'one weekend a month' to 'fighting with the Marines' - why don't we see this kind of reporting on the mainstream news ? probably because they provide "news lite", instead of this kind of first-class reporting.
February 23, 2007 06:26 AM

Richard Sage said:
so Bravo Co. was rewarded for their efforts by being extended - seems to me that if they'd take some of these pogues and remf's off the FOBs and put them in the field, we'd have more than enough troops to do the job,

maybe OnPoint should consider an article on net warrior strength as opposed to gross troop strength
February 23, 2007 06:31 AM

George B said:
"The quintessential citizen-soldiers..." what an impressive and accurate way to describe these quiet heros - I fought in the Israeli Army, and know this type of men well - great reporting, OnPoint !
February 23, 2007 07:28 AM

aaa said:
nothing
February 24, 2007 01:57 AM

Great Story said:
Many still think the best fighters still come from the great plains of America. Great read.
February 24, 2007 06:41 PM

STANLEY said:
To all the servicemen and women in Iraq:
Thanks from Europe to the USA for the war on terror!
Without you guys we would be overrun in no time...
I'm quite ashamed about all the Europeans who think otherwise...
They seem to have forgotten the lessons from WW2 and that a lot of terrorist-attacks have already been prevented in Europe, thanks to you also...

I wish you all the best and foremost a save return to the USA!
greetings from Amsterdam and:

God bless you all!
February 25, 2007 05:56 AM

MRB said:
Way to go guys! We are so proud of you. We pray for your safe return everyday!
February 26, 2007 10:53 AM

Jason Iverson said:
The main stream media needs to spend more time reporting on stories like this one.

Thank God we have service men & women willing to go into harms way and protect the freedom of us all - even the critics. They didn't make the decision to go into Iraq, Afganistan or wherever. They answered the call with courage and determination, and EVERYONE needs to support them in their mission.

I'm very proud of what our service men & women are doing for our country and the committment made by the Reserve & Guard members. I pray for their safe return after successfully fulfilling their mission.
March 03, 2007 02:41 PM

James Peterson said:
Isn't it strange to hear a story out of Iraq that makes you proud?
Just makes you realize how bad the established media is in this country.
March 09, 2007 05:16 PM
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