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National Guard Adjutant General Richard Nash visits Montevideo, Minn.

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MONTEVIDEO - Major General Richard C. Nash, adjutant general for the state of Minnesota, met with local educational and political leaders, law enforcement officials and business community members in Montevideo on Wednesday to discuss how the National Guard and local communities each can best help the other.

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"We brought the team up here to really engage with this great community ... that has a long history of supporting the 1st Battalion 151," Nash said. "It was a great outpouring today ... to listen to us talk about what we do and how we best support the communities."

One ongoing theme for the day was education and employment for veterans, including strategies for connecting businesses and the state Department of Employment and Economic Development to help soldiers, said Lt. Col. Lowell Kruse, commander of the 1st Battalion 151.

"If there's one success that comes from today, the cross-talk between those organizations was very valuable," said Kruse.

Mick Ekren, human resource specialist with Superior Industries, said she thought an important takeaway from the day was some of the statistics the staff shared: as of June 2011, 16 percent of veterans who had returned home from deployment were still unemployed, and 40 percent who were preparing to return home said finding a job was their biggest concern.

Discussions also focused on how communities can support families while veterans are deployed and veterans after they return home.

Morris City Manager Blaine Hill said he didn't remember a time when the adjutant general met with local communities to talk about the guard, and that Nash's presence across the state showed evidence of the Guard's local priorities going forward.

The City of Morris is in the process of becoming certified by the state as a Yellow Ribbon Community as part of the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program - a collaboration to provide support for service members and their families.

Police Chief Jim Beauregard said one benefit for Morris representatives was the chance to network with other communities to learn about their services for veterans.

"One reason we went was with the thought that we are stepping up our Yellow Ribbon campaign. We went there looking for resources to provide better services," Beauregard said.

Hill is currently working to form a steering committee for the Yellow Ribbon Community effort that would work to see what local groups are already doing for veterans' support and see if there are any unmet needs and work to identify veterans in the community.

"We don't know who these people are within our community," said Hill. "A big project for us will be to identify service members and their families ... to see if they need any help."

The State of the Guard

More than 22,000 Minnesota Guard members have served overseas since 9/11. Today, more than 3,000 people are serving overseas in Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries.

Nash said most Minnesota soldiers are working as part of the drawn down effort to withdrawn troops from Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011. They are working as convoy security to take food, water, and fuel into theater, drawn out property from Iraq and provide base security in Kuwait.

As the Guard adjusts after 10 years of overseas deployments, Nash has outlined six ongoing priorities for the Guard:

• Provide a competent, ready force for our state and nation;

• Continue to work toward an optimal word structure;

• Advance out environmentally sustainable infrastructure;

• Continue to grow and coordinate the "Beyond the Yellow Ribbon" program;

• Continue to diversify our military force; and

• Develop capacity to combat the emerging cyber warfare threat.

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Kim Ukura
Kim Ukura has served as the editor of the Morris Sun Tribune since August 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota, Morris in 2008 with degrees in English and journalism. She earned a master's degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 2010. Prior to returning to Morris to work at the Sun Tribune, she worked in trade publishing. 
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