Decade of change transforms Red Bulls

Everything changed on Sept. 11, 2001 and the 34th Infantry Division’s mission was no exception. The 34th Infantry Division was the first National Guard Division to transform to the Army’s modular and expeditionary Brigade Combat Team structure allowing greater flexibility in mission planning and the ability to specifically tailor the force to each individual mission. The division’s force structure has grown and is now spread across eight Midwest states. Combined, the division represents 23,000 Citizen-Soldiers.

The 34th Red Bull Infantry Division, based in Rosemount Minn. oversees the training and operations of four brigades in Minnesota; the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Combat Aviation Brigade, 84th Troop Command and the 347th Regional Support Group. Known as the Red Bulls, the 34th Infantry Division is capable of deploying its Main Command Post, Tactical Command Post, and Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion to provide command and control for Army brigades.

Outside Minnesota, the 34th Infantry Division provides training and operational guidance to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Iowa National Guard; 116th Brigade Combat Team, Idaho National Guard; 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Wis. National Guard; 115th Fires Brigade, Wyo. National Guard; 141st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, ND National Guard; and the 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Wis. National Guard.


Thirty Red Bulls participated in a joint service ‘cyber-deployment’ exercise aboard the USS Mount Whitney, a command and control ship for the Navy’s 2nd Fleet.


More than 1,100 Minnesota Army National Guard’s 34th Red Bull Infantry Division Soldiers officially started the largest Red Bull deployment since World War II Sept. 30, 2003 in a Transfer of Authority at Peacekeepers Hall on Eagle Base in Bosnia and Herzegovina. [1] Most of the 34th ID Soldiers had already deployed to Bosnia and Herzegovina in support of Operation Joint Forge as the NATO-led SFOR 14 peacekeeping mission by the middle of September. There were four task forces in SFOR 14. Task Force North or Iron was composed of Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 194th Armor headquartered in Duluth, Minn., Task Force South or Bearcats had Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 136th Infantry headquartered in Moorhead, Minn., Task Force Aviation with Soldiers mostly from the Texas Army National Guard and Task Force Medical Eagle which has both Army Reserve and Guard Soldiers from several states. These U.S. forces were stationed at Eagle Base, Camp McGovern, and Camp Connor. SFOR 14’s American contingent Soldiers were from 29 states and two territories.



In May 2004, the 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry Regiment (augmented by Company D, 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry Regiment), 2nd Brigade, 34th Infantry Division, and with nearly 100 key positions filled by members of the 1st Battalion (IRONMAN), 133rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 34th Infantry Division, commenced combat operations at 13 Provincial Reconstruction Team sites throughout Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. This returned the Red Bull patch to combat after 59 years and earning the battalion the distinction of becoming the first unit in the 34th Infantry Division to wear the Red Bull patch as a right-shoulder combat patch since World War II.

Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry participated in the first-ever Minnesota Army National Guard Small Unit Exchange with the El Salvadoran Army.


In January 2005, A Co., 1/194 Armor Battalion arrived at Camp Ashraf, about 80 km north of Baghdad, to conduct security and convoy operations in the surrounding area and conducted joint operations with Iraqi Army ahead of the Oct 2005 Iraqi constitution ratification vote. The 151-man unit was formed from nearly all of the Soldiers in the 1/194th and Company A was chosen to honor the unit’s lineage of the Soldiers who fought to defend the Philippines against the Japanese and the Bataan Death March that followed. The unit was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation for its exceptional service.

Approximately 50 Soldiers from the Minnesota National Guard Army Aviation.

Support Facility provided hurricane relief in the Gulf Coast region, including flying 390 hours to transport food, water, 400 passengers, and 400,000 pounds of sandbags to levee breaches in the greater New Orleans area.


In March 2006, 2,600 Soldiers of the 1st Brigade of the 34th Infantry Division commenced combat operations in central and southern Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, marking the largest single unit deployment for the 34th Infantry Division since World War II. With its return in July 2007, 1st Brigade served in one of the longest consecutive combat operations within the United States military (Activated for 22 months total with 16 in Iraq).

In Minnesota, Soldiers of the 1st Brigade deployed to the Red River Valley to combat spring flooding.

In 2006, the aviators and crews of the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade were instrumental in suppressing forest fires in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area using specially-designed buckets to drop water on hot spots from UH-60 Blackhawks. Simultaneously, Minnesota Army National Guard CH-47 Chinooks from the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade were preparing to deploy to Iraq to ferry troops, cargo, and supplies in support of coalition forces.


In 2007, 34th Infantry Division troops participated in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as training exercises in Egypt, Canada and Croatia.

The Soldiers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team distinguished themselves in Iraq by traveling more than 2.2 million convoy miles, disarming more than 400 explosive devices, building seven water purification plants and constructing 90 miles of roadway in the Dhi Qar region.

B Co., 2nd Battalion, 211th General Support Aviation Battalion safely returned home after flying CH-47 Chinooks on 5,400 combat missions in Iraq. The 2nd Battalion, 147th Assault Helicopter Regiment deployed to Iraq with UH-60 Blackhawks and is expected home in summer of 2008. Minnesotans relied on the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade to assist in suppressing fires, providing emergency transportation during floods, providing heavy-lift capabilities at the I-35W bridge collapse and assisting with recovery of a downed aircraft.


The 34th Combat Aviation Brigade mobilized more than 700 Soldiers in May 2008 for a deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The 34th CAB was the command element of Task Force 34, a Multi-National Corps-Iraq Aviation Brigade which conducted full spectrum aviation operations throughout Iraq. Task Force 34 provided a stable and secure environment allowing the Iraqi National Government the ability to assume more responsibility for the security and governmental functions of Iraq.

The Soldiers of Task Force 34 provided aerial support to all areas of Iraq, including tactical missions, VIP escorts, area reconnaissance, medical evacuations and other operations. Task Force 34 transported more than 130,000 passengers and 11,670,000 pounds of cargo.

In 2008, members of the 1st Brigade Combat Team completed the process of reintegration back into civilian life through the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program. The brigade also worked to reorganize itself after a record setting, 22-month deployment away from home. In addition, the brigade fielded new combat systems, including upgraded Abrams Tanks, Mortar Fire Control Systems, unmanned aerial vehicles and new self-propelled howitzers.


In February the division headquarters deployed to Iraq. More than 1,200 Citizen-Soldiers representing 273 Minnesota communities and 14 states deployed with the Red Bulls. Four hometown Minnesota National Guard units deployed: The 34th Infantry Division Command Post from Rosemount, the 34th Infantry Division Special Troops Battalion from Inver Grove Heights and Faribault, the 34th Infantry Division Band from Rosemount, and the 34th Military Police Company from Stillwater.

The Soldiers of C Company, 2nd Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment Air Ambulance (C Co, 2-211) served in Iraq and Afghanistan performing aero-medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) and medical resupply missions. This was the first time a Minnesota Army National Guard unit received a change of mission to Afghanistan while already serving in Iraq. In Afghanistan, C Co, 2-211 personnel provided MEDEVAC in the Regional Command-South and -West from the Kandahar Airfield.

C Co, 2-211 performed more than 300 MEDEVAC missions, providing lifesaving evacuation services to more than 500 patients while flying more than 1,700 flight hours with 12 medical evacuation helicopters.


The Red Bull headquarters returned home in April. The 34th Infantry Division made a lasting impression on agribusiness in southern Iraq, assisting in acquiring 20 tractors, 20 water pumps, and greenhouse material for the Az Zubayr Farmers Association.

U.S. Division – South facilitated 123 microgrants during fiscal year 2009, resulting in more than $380,000 being invested into local sustainable businesses.

The Red Bulls secured $10 million to fund improvements for the Jassan-Dubuni Water Pump Station Rehabilitation Project.

More than $25 million was invested through 18 Commanders Emergency Response Program projects that resulted in long-term improvements in electrical systems, water distribution and treatment, and airfield operations.

The Red Bulls embraced their mission and set the conditions for a successful drawdown of U.S. military forces in Iraq by:

– Closing or transferring 16 patrol bases and beginning the massive logistics flow of military equipment out of the country.

– Transferring roughly $10.5 million in excess property to the Government of Iraq.

In August 2010, nearly 3,000 Iowa Army National Guard Soldiers, with 28 hometown send-offs, left for a year-long deployment to Afghanistan, making it the largest deployment of the Iowa National Guard since World War II. Augmented by the 1–134th Cavalry Reconnaissance and Surveillance Squadron of the Nebraska Army National Guard, the brigade conducted pre-mobilization training in Mississippi and California. The troops partnered with Afghan security forces to provide security and assist in training.

Brig. Gen. David Elicerio took command of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division from Maj. Gen. Richard Nash in October. The change in leadership marks the transformation to a new structure, which further aligned the division with the multi-component structure that will be the framework for future military operations.

The 1st Brigade Combat Team conducted several state missions, to include assisting law enforcement agencies after deadly tornados hit the Wadena area in June and providing flood fight support in the Red River Valley in March and September.


In April, the division headquarters was an important part of U.S. European Command’s exercise in Germany called Austere Challenge. During this exercise, the Red Bulls, along with military forces from all branches of the U.S. military and the nations of France, Germany, Great Britain and Poland practiced the essential procedures required for joint, coalition military operations.

At home, the division served as the regional Domestic All-Hazard Response Team, capable of deploying throughout the U.S. to assist with command and control of military forces during a natural disaster or homeland security incident. They developed Yellow Ribbon Networks in 45 of 62 Red Bull cities.

1st Brigade Combat Team

In 2011, the 1st Brigade participated in an exchange with the Croatian Armed Forces; deployed a communications cell and military intelligence unit to Afghanistan in support of the 45th Brigade Combat Team of the Oklahoma National Guard; a team of specialists to train the Afghan National Army; and more than 2,700 Citizen-Soldiers to Kuwait in support of Operation New Dawn.

The mission in Kuwait is the largest deployment of Minnesota Guardsmen since World War II, and the brigade played a significant role. The brigade’s mission includes base management, convoy security, reaction forces, and management of specialized units from the Army, Navy and Coast Guard. The brigade drove 1.35 million miles and escorted 25,970 trucks during 480 missions prior to the last U.S. military convoy departing Iraq.

At 0703, Dec. 18 2011, 3rd platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry crossed into Kuwait as the Rear Guard for the last ARCENT logistics convoy out of Iraq.  20 minutes behind them were approximately 30 Soldiers from the Regular Army who had the honor of being the last military personnel out of Iraq.  Red Bulls were there to witness the end of the war in Iraq, but more importantly, to get out of Iraq without any serious injuries.  After crossing into Kuwait and clearing our weapons, they pulled off to the side of the road and had a small celebration.  “I will never forget the look in the eyes of the soldiers–They had a look of joy and relief that the brigade had pulled off this historic mission virtually without a scratch,” said 1st Brigade Combat Team Commander Col. Eric Kerska. “For me personally, it ended my 21-year association with Iraq.  It felt real good to tie a bow on that war.”

2nd Brigade Combat Team

NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Soldiers of Task Force Red Bulls in Nuristan province, Afghanistan, fought the largest battle of the 34th Infantry Division since World War II, May 25, 2011.

The battle involved only about 40 U.S. service members from the Reconnaissance Platoon from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, and six Soldiers assigned to Company C, both of 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, Task Force Ironman, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Task Force Red Bulls, and about 20 of their Afghan counterparts.

Yet this small group of Soldiers thwarted an ambush from an enemy force numbering in the hundreds, killing more than 200 insurgent fighters in an intense battle lasting seven hours. The Soldiers said the most amazing part of the whole conflict, though, there wasn’t one coalition forces casualty.

LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The Red Bulls conducted two large air assaults into the valleys surrounding Bad Pakh and Do Ab districts to reinforce local security and enable the Afghan national security forces to occupy the district centers that serve their people.

“I find it remarkable that the air assault in the Do Ab was the largest air assault conducted during the CJTF-101’s tour in Regional Command East,” said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. James Richardson, deputy-commanding general of Support, Combined Joint Task Force-1.

They also completed more than $48 million worth of development projects in 26 districts and in five provinces.

“This firmly set the conditions for the local and district governments self-sustainment irreversible stability,” said Richardson. “The Red Bulls did all this and more while conducting base defense at Bagram preserving our safety through persistent surveillance and vigilant over watch.”

The Red Bull’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team returned home in 2011.

34th Combat Aviation Brigade

In 2011, the St. Cloud based B Co., 2-211th General Support Aviation Battalion (GSAB) returned from a combat tour in Iraq, providing CH-47 Chinook helicopter heavy lift capability during the drawdown of U.S. military forces. The St. Cloud-based C Co., 1-171 GSAB deployed to Afghanistan to support UH-60 “Blackhawk” medical evacuation. The St. Paul-based A Co., 2-147th Aviation Regiment deployed to Kuwait to enhance the aviation capability of U.S. Central Command.

The 34th CAB executed Emergency Management Assistance Compacts with both N.D. and S.D. by providing lift and hoist capability during Missouri River Valley flooding. In Minnesota, 34th CAB helicopters dropped more than a half million gallons of water during two wildland fire suppression efforts.

The brigade is now transitioning to an upgraded CH-47 enhancing the performance and avionics in the dual-rotor helicopter.


In 2012, the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division capitalized on the lessons learned during previous international exercises and turned their attention to the Pacific region.   The Red Bulls participated in Yama Sakura, an annual U.S./Japan bilateral exercise hosted by the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces and U.S. Army Pacific.  Yama Sakura is a full-spectrum operations exercise focused on the defense of Japan.

Future Objectives

In order to keep their skills sharp, the 34th Infantry Division will continue to seek out opportunities to participate in these international exercises in order to sustain the relationships developed with U.S. military and international partners.   With nearly 3,000 Citizen-Soldiers recently returned from duty in both Kuwait and Afghanistan, the division will continue to encourage Yellow Ribbon Networks to expand throughout Minnesota. A high priority for many returning Citizen-Soldiers will be obtaining meaningful employment.

Aug. 25, 2012
By Master Sgt. Daniel Ewer
34th Infantry Division Public Affairs