Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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FORT McCOY, Wis. - Minnesota's 2,600 National Guard soldiers returning from Iraq faced a full schedule of lectures, medical tests and other tasks preparing for civilian life before being allowed to head home. But of all the experts they heard during the week-plus stay at Fort McCoy, the best advice may have come from their boss, Maj. Gen. Rick Erlandson. "I'm going to ask you, as you go home, to go slow," the general told his troops. "Take it one step at a time. One hour at a time. A week at a time. A month at a time.
ST. PAUL - National Guard soldiers coming home from Iraq receive nation-leading mental and physical care, Minnesota's veterans' affairs commissioner said, but he worries that other soldiers are not as lucky. Clark Dyrud said thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, part of the active military and reserve units, are not getting the same help. And they can feel ignored. "How about the guy who has come back, fought in an infantry unit, and goes home to Ada?" Dyrud asked.
VOLK FIELD, Wis. - Spec. Dustin Isaak left no doubt what he thought about spending 22 months away from home: "It is too long to be away from your family." The Thief River Falls National Guard soldier's feeling is like many who have arrived lately from Iraq at a western Wisconsin airfield. "There were some days sitting there in the heat thinking, 'I should be home with my family,'" Isaak added. The commander of units from Bemidji and Detroit Lakes, Capt. Adam Gilbertson, said if he knew then what he knows know, his feelings about deployment might have been different back in 2005 when Gov.
VOLK FIELD, Wis. - Sgt. Mark Hilleren admitted to being emotional when the DC-10 landed Tuesday at a western Wisconsin air base. "It's good to finally be home, to touch down in the states, to see trees, grass and everything else," the Duluth soldier said. And next up for Hilleren?
ST. PAUL -- The ease of making a "dirty bomb" from nuclear material no longer is a dirty secret. "There are gaping holes in the system," U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., said, adding that federal officials promise to change that. At a hearing last week, Coleman talked to Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials about a Government Accountability Office report showing it was easy to obtain nuclear material for use in a dirty bomb. Federal officials said that they did not think terrorists had the technical ability to make a bomb that spreads dangerous nuclear radiation.
Another wave of Minnesota National Guard soldiers will return home this week after an extended deployment in Iraq. More than 700 Minnesota National Guard Soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 34th Infantry Division -- the "Red Bulls" -- will return to 10 armories around the state. That includes eight Northland members of the unit who will return to the Duluth National Guard Armory on Airpark Boulevard sometime after 1 p.m.
Freshman U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a Democrat serving southern Minnesota, says there is no way he will challenge U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman next year. "No means no," he said, reacting to repeated rumors that he will enter the race against Democrats Al Franken, Mike Ciresi and others. But, Walz said, he understands why people ask him: "There is somewhat of a concern right now that none of our candidates have won a federal race." "The frustration with Sen. Coleman is almost so thick you can almost cut it with a knife," he added.
The prospects for a Minnesota special legislative session this year are dim. "Everybody agrees we're not going to have one unless all the caucus leaders and all the caucuses agree, and they don't," Gov. Tim Pawlenty told reporters. The GOP governor said he has met with legislative leaders and individual lawmakers, but there is not consensus on what issues would be addressed if he called a special session.
Arizona Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign is struggling, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty admits there are problems. "Obviously, it has not gone as well as he had hoped," McCain's national co-chairman said on WDAY radio's "Hot Talk." Pawlenty said he still thinks McCain would be a good president and offered hope that he can "restart" the campaign. The governor may have a big title, but Pawlenty said his co-chairmanship "is really a ceremonial job." His only role has been to fill in when McCain cannot speak at an event, about once a month, Pawlenty added.
A new blog boasts accomplishments of Minnesota's Republican governor, Tim Pawlenty. The blog, www.partyofpawlenty.com , touts "one of the conservative movement and Republican Party's most significant new voices," said one of its authors, Chris Tiedeman. If you visit, expect rhetoric like this Tiedeman comment: "Some say great leaders are defined by their time; by a particular moment in history. Others say great leaders transcend their time. Tim Pawlenty does both." Pawlenty often is mentioned as a national candidate in 2008 or 2012.