“The National Guard is engaged worldwide in supporting the Joint Force and the USA’s national security priorities,” Lengyel said. “Missions such as our support to the MFO keep our soldiers and airmen ready, effective and operational.”
Army Sgt. Kathryn Moonen put her environmental engineering studies on hold to take up the duties of a MFO medic in a Middle Eastern desert.
“I knew this was a well-established deployment,” she said. “We came in here with the mindset to make it that much better.”
The Minnesotan citizen-warriors knew their unfamiliarity with the mission and the environment held a potentially innovative advantage -- fresh eyes.
“People get in a mindset, ‘Oh, it’s been this way for 30 years,’” Moonen said. “The Minnesotans sought ways to enhance the mission. The Massachusetts troops replacing them say they’re bringing the same attitude: How can we contribute to continuous improvement?”
Moonen returns to Minnesota changed by her first overseas deployment.
During her time in the Sinai Desert, Moonen rotated through remote sites where small units of soldiers observe and report activity in support of Egypt and Israel’s treaty.
She spent a full 28-day rotation sharing quarters in the austere environment of Tiran Island, where soldiers are the only residents on a windblown, sandy rock, periodically resupplied by the MFO’s UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.
Moonen helped teach cardiopulmonary resuscitation to about 100 of the Fijian troops also supporting the MFO. With MFO firefighters, she helped troops become certified as combat lifesavers. She contributed to significantly upgrading the MFO’s medical capabilities, ordering mannequins and other equipment for training and medical care. She took part in evacuation exercises and air assault school tryouts.
National Guard Service:
She also took a one-month break to attend the Basic Leadership Course required of Army noncommissioned officers. The course was offered by Army National Guard troops stationed in Kuwait; Moonen graduated on the commandant’s list.
Moonen is 24 years old. She knows her National Guard service makes her different from many of the students she’s rejoining in school, and she returns seeing opportunity in that difference -- the chance to share her experience and perspective with her contemporaries.
She said her military service is possible because of her family and friends.
“My support system is great,” Moonen said. Like many Guard members, she’s continuing a family tradition: her father served in the Army, a brother is a Marine, and a second brother is training to become an Army officer in ROTC.