Carey, an emailer to Chad the Elder, adds:
The Minnesota National Guard
We met up with members of the Minnesota National Guard during one of the stops on the patrol. I don’t know what the Minnesota soldiers were eating for breakfast, but the first thing that Marine Sergeant Major O’Connell said about the Minnesota National Guard was something to the effect that this was the best bunch he’d ever seen. I had to clear my ears and ask him to repeat that. I seemed to have had an auditory hallucination, because high praise coming from a Marine Sergeant Major in Anbar province, who knows what competent troops are, just didn’t seem right when it was heaped on the Army. When I asked for clarification, Sergeant Major O’Connell not only stood by it, but he started listing the reasons why this particular Minnesota National Guard unit deserves special recognition.
Any notion that a Marine Sergeant Major was giving the unit high praise as a gesture of respect for an Army colleague was quickly disabused by Mellinger when he added that Sergeant Major Howard, the top enlisted Marine in Iraq, had also extended congratulations. Mellinger said he was going to contact the CSM of the National Guard to make sure it was known how highly regarded these soldiers are by the people who have come to rely upon their effectiveness in one of the most dangerous outposts in the world. The Minnesota soldiers stood there so quietly that CSM Mellinger must have thought they didn’t believe him. With characteristic bluntness, Mellinger assured them of the veracity of the praise he was relaying, by saying something like, “I’m too old to blow smoke.” Mellinger affirmed that this was honestly the highest congratulations he could confer. In my experience of having seen CSM Mellinger interface with, say, fifty different units during the month total I’ve spent with him, be they Marines, soldiers, sailors, Special Forces or Air Force, I have never seen him give an endorsement like the one he extended to the Minnesota National Guard. If the citizens of Minnesota should be faced with some calamity, I’d say the Governor can rest assured that the state has an able posse.
The Minnesota unit in Iraq is the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division (1/34 BCT). If I am not mistaken, it is the only Army National Guard Combat Brigade deployed in Iraq. From what I can tell the 1/34 BCT has drawn some very tough missions in Anbar province, working closely with Marine units. It has suffered significant causalities while in Iraq. This unit just had its tour extended several months to July 07. These soldiers (and their families) are heroes. It would be nice if more people knew what an outstanding job they are doing, and how highly they are regarded by their active component peers. I doubt the MSM would pick up on Yon's piece or understand the significance of CSM Mellinger's praise.As readers of this blog know, our son, Doug is a proud deployed member of the Minnesota contingent!
A big thanks to Chad the Elder at Fraters for bringing this to my attention!