MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The face of the U.S. military is changing, especially in the Minnesota National Guard.
WCCO’s Reg Chapman and photojournalist Tom Aviles traveled to Kuwait last month to feature some of the work members of the Minnesota National Guard’s Red Bulls.
They found female commanders and transgender soldiers leading the way in a more inclusive military.
“My entire career, I really worked my butt off,” Maj. Tarrance Robertson said.
Robertson is serving his second deployment dealing with crisis action planning at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait.
“We make the long range plans for whats going on in the area of operations,” Robertson said.
Robertson is commander over hundreds of troops, which is a lot different from the role he played during his first deployment.
“First deployment was in 2011, 2012 to Afghanistan and I was on an agriculture development team,” Robertson said.
Back then, Tarrance was Tara, the first female in Minnesota to serve in a combat zone. Robertson transitioned in 2016 after Secretary of Defense Ash Carter lifted the ban on allowing transgender troops to serve openly.
“Within the unit, I am in now within Minnesota. No, I don’t feel marginalized. In the broader picture it feels that way, yes. You feel attacked for lack of better term,” Robertson said.
Attacked by a new policy, his wife back home in St. Paul says she worries every day.
“This deployment has been incredibly stressful, not just because my partner is gone, [but] because we have an administration that is openly hostile towards transgender service members,” Robertson’s wife Julia said. “It adds a whole ‘nother layer.”
In April of this year, a new policy says no one who is taking hormones or has transitioned to another gender will not be allowed to serve.
“I hope there is a future for me in the United States Army. As it stands right now, I am currently grandfathered in to allow to continue to serve because my transition was complete before they implemented the most recent policy in April,” Robertson said. I don’t have any intention in stopping serving. I’ve been in 14 years; I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.”
Julia says her husband is a fighter who refuses to let anything stand in the way of serving his country.
“He definitely has some experiences and he will never talk about those experiences because he wants to put his work first and be seen for his work,” Julia said.
Julia says she is proud of her husband and is counting the minutes until he returns home.
Robertson and other members of the Minnesota National Guard’s Red Bulls should return home before the end of this month.