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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Ed Schultz Show: Reintegration Program Discussion Wednesday

Important program slated for tomorrow, Wednesday Jan 10, on the Ed Schultz Show:

Hear Ed's invite
How do families prepare for military personnel coming home from Iraq? Captain Aaron Krenz of the National Guard joins us to talk about a new reintegration program.

The discussion revolves around the ground-breaking work being done by Krentz and the Minnesota National Guard to help military families prepare for 2,600 of their loved ones coming home from Iraq beginning in March. What are they doing to help?

Minnesota State University is offering a first-of-its kind Family Reintegration Academy program to family members of the 1st Brigade Combat Team throughout the state of MN. The first training date took place two days ago in Moorehead, and I'm anxious to see how well it was received.

UPDATED: Jan 10 2007 - 21:53
Podcast of Capt. Krentz interview now available.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for much more...

Press Release from Minnesota State University-Moorehead:

For 2,600 returning Minnesota soldiers…

Life in a combat zone is pretty much black and white: pull the trigger, don’t pull the trigger; take a risk, don’t take a risk; obey orders, give orders; terror, exhaustion; live, die. Not so in civilian life, where a more mundane set of circumstances casts a gray ether of indifference over even the most insignificant decisions. So how does a soldier––who’s spent more than a year making life and death decisions daily while fighting off stretches of boredom and exhaustion––adjust to civilian life after a tour of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan?

It’s a good question that the Minnesota National Guard is trying to resolve when 2,600 of its citizen soldiers return home this spring, the largest deployment since World War II. “Fortunately, Minnesota is at the forefront in making an effort to integrate its National Guard soldiers back into civilian life,” says MSUM alum Capt. Aaron Krenz, operations officer for the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division’s reintegration team. “It’s a pilot program that other states will be looking at.”

Gov. Tim Pawlenty echoed that sentiment last fall at the Minnesota Summit on Returning Veterans: “Our goal is to make this the most veteran-friendly state in the United States.”

MSUM is also playing its part, hosting the Minnesota National Guard’s first Family Reintegration Academy on Jan. 6, aimed at the spouses, children and families of soldiers who will return in March, April and May. It’s part of a larger overall program that all of these transitioning soldiers will be required to participate in two, 30, 60 and 90 days after arriving home [links to brochures on program details, dates, and places].

Ten sites have been organized around the state to host these sessions. “We’re partnering with community providers, businesses and government agencies across the state to create a safety net,” he said. “We’ll provide all of them with professional help dealing with difficulties they may face at home, work, school or in their private lives.”

Krenz, a 1996 MSUM criminal justice graduate and former linebacker for the Dragon football team, was chosen to be a major player in the reintegration team because he encountered a few problems himself after returning home from a year’s tour as commander of Alpha Company, 1/151 Field Artillery that trained Iraqi police forces in southeast Baghdad.

Krenz left behind a 9-month-old daughter and his wife Monica, who developed her own routine for running the household while her husband was overseas. “Things change over a year, and we were both exhausted from our ordeals,” Krenz said. “My challenge was finding out how to fit back into my family and my family’s challenge was how they would adjust to me.”

The hurdles for other returning soldiers can be more exacting. “Take a typical Humvee turret gunner whose job was to patrol the streets of Baghdad,” Krenz said. “Most of these guys are very young. But the responsibilities and risks they faced were enormous.” Few of the civilian jobs they’ll return to, he said, match the responsibilities, the adrenaline rush or the intense emotions of being in a combat zone—whether it’s teaching school, flipping hamburgers or running a company.

“Readjusting can be frustrating,” he said. “But I know this: after facing the possibility of death daily, when these soldiers return they want to live life to the fullest. That’s why we want to funnel that passion into education, jobs and family.” Not the darker avenues, which can range from drugs and depression to traumatic stress and homelessness.

Minnesota Adjutant Gen. Larry Shellito, another MSUM alum (’68 accounting, ‘72 business administration and ’79 master’s degree in education) pointed out that since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 11,000 Guard members have been deployed to 33 nations, with about 1,100 returning from Iraq. “We want all of our soldiers to know here’s how we can help you,” he said. “You get a welcome home, a hug and a kiss and a week later, you’re in the house all alone, and that’s when reality can set in. What we’re working on is providing preventive medicine instead of just waiting to see what happens.”

A Vietnam veteran with more than 30 years of military service, Shellito said “The genesis of this program goes back 30 years when the same people came back and no one gave a damn.” MSUM’s part in this reintegration program will basically be to provide facilities and coordinate day care during the sessions taking place on campus.

Krenz, who grew up on a farm in Wheaton, Minn., joined the Minnesota National Guard in high school. He spent most of his service time as an enlisted soldier with an artillery battery in Ortonville. After completing officer training in 2003, he’s been commanding the battery in Marshall, Minn. In civilian life, Krenz is a Clay County youth counselor. But for the time being, he’s been activated in Moorhead to coordinate the reintegration program for one of the largest inflows of new combat veterans in the state’s history. ...

“This pilot program will be successful and I hope catches on throughout the nation” Krenz said. “These veterans deserve our best efforts.”

Three cheers and a big Hoorah for the great state of Minnesota and to all those involved with getting such a program off the ground!

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