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Commanding officer lauds Minnesota servicemembers 1 year after Afghanistan withdrawal

Minnesota servicemembers lauded one year after Afghanistan pullout
Minnesota servicemembers lauded one year after Afghanistan pullout 02:08

ROSEMOUNT, Minn. -- The American withdrawal from Afghanistan was both an ignominious moment in history and a shining example of American ingenuity, as our servicemembers conducted the largest airlift operation in history.

"History will write what happened, but we were there," said Lt. Col. Jacob Helgestad, former Battalion Commander of the Minnesota National Guard's Task Force 1-194 from the 194th Armored Brigade. "Our mission was a response force, so we got our mission, we went, did our jobs. We did it well and enabled the evacuation."

According to Helgestad, his task force was in Kuwait during the summer of 2021 when he received an abrupt wake-up call.  

Lt. Col. Jacob Helgestad

"I got woken up in my room at 11:18 p.m., and it was, 'Sir, we have to be in Afghanistan in 24 hours,'" Helgestad said. "I was like, 'What?'"

As the task force of 425 soldiers embarked on its mission to secure Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Helgestad communicated to his troops four key principles: Everyone comes home, we will be ready to fight, no one will ever wait on us, and trust yourself and trust each other.

The unit arrived in Kabul on August 17 and remained there through the August 31 deadline for all U.S. troops to withdraw.

"About 80 percent of the soldiers in the task force had never deployed. I had 21-year-olds building our setups in the an airport hangar," he said. "I told them,  'Those lessons learned will allow … all of us to be a better leader, to make all everyone around us better for the unknown what's next,'" Helgestad said.

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