MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The last of the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 34th Infantry Division — the Red Bulls — returned home to Minnesota Sunday.
Brigadier General Kevin Gerdes, is the Deputy Commanding General of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division. Gerdes is responsible for overseeing the operations of the Red Bulls and has great insight in the reintegration process.
He told WCCO Radio’s News and Views host Susie Jones, that homecomings are emotional for everyone.
“After being gone for 12 months, to be home safely is a big feeling of accomplishment,” Gerdes said.
NewsRadio 830 WCCO’s Susie Jones Reports
Gerdes said the mission of the trip was three fold: Convoy security, base management and force protection.
Command Sergeant Major Cindy Kallberg, is the Minnesota National Guard Senior Enlisted Advisor. Kallberg oversees the welfare and well-being of all enlisted members of the Minnesota National Guard.
She was deployed to Iraq in 2009 and 2010, and left two teenage daughters home.
“You really have to rely on your family and the community for support,” said Kallberg.
But Minnesota has many programs to help and Brigadier General Gerdes said Minnesota is viewed as “innovative.”
“We’ve established some of these initiatives that are being copied in other states in the country,” Gerdes said.
Making sure that the needs of returning soldiers is met but what have learned is that reintegration preparation happens before they even get deployed.
“It’s important that the soldier is surrounded by people who love and support them,” Kallberg said.
It’s an adjustment.She said every deployment different.
“Give them time and space.” She said.
The Big Unemployment Problem
Now, 20 percent of returning soldiers are facing unemployment, but the National Guard is taking steps to help resolve that problem. Kallberg said to find out about job openings, she encourages soldiers to visit the Positively Minnesota website.