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Catching up with Crazy Troop

Crazy Troop soldiers Sgt. Aaron Watnemoe of Superior, Wis., and Private Kyle Cotrell of Proctor stand beside their combat gear and armored vehicle in anticipation of a required pre-mission inspection just before departing on a security mission into Northern Iraq. The inspection ensures all required gear and safety equipment is mission ready to protect the soldiers during the lengthy missions throughout the Iraqi theatre of operations. Photo contributed by SFC Troy R. Smith1 / 3
Representative Chip Cravaack, Congressman for the 8th District of Minnesota (and a close friend of Crazy Troop) discusses the upcoming deployment with SPC Nathan Hainline(left) from Duluth, and SPC Quinton Jones(right), formerly of Duluth during the MN based "serving our troops" steak cookout at Fort McCoy, WI.2 / 3
The soldiers of Cloquet's Crazy Troop 1st Squadron, 94th Cavalry board the plane as they depart their mobilization site in Wisconsin en route to the Middle Eastern country of Kuwait. Photo contributed by SFC Troy R. Smith3 / 3

A lot has happened since the incredible sendoff the soldiers of Crazy Troop, 1-94 CAV received at the Cloquet Armory in May. Shortly after their local goodbyes, the soldiers departed for mobilization training at Fort McCoy, Wis., before departing for overseas. The soldiers knew that significantly more intensified training awaited them, but most were not prepared for what Mother Nature had in store.

"I don't think any of us were prepared for 100-plus-degree heat for so many of the days here," Private First Class Daniel Henagin of Cloquet said at the time.

The soldiers of Crazy Troop quickly adjusted to the heat, using copious amounts of water to aid their bodies as they pushed through to complete all the training required. About to deploy to a desert environment, the soldiers knew the Army doesn't stop when it gets hot. The soldiers trained hard and developed their war-fighting skills throughout several events geared towards preparing the soldiers for the kinds of conditions they would face overseas. The soldiers were constantly reminded by their leadership that it would be the skills they developed in the safe confines of Wisconsin that would set the tone for how well they accomplished their mission in perilous Iraq. The soldiers of the unit leaned on the experiences of their Non-Commissioned Officer Corps, almost all of whom have already completed at least one deployment to the Middle East and set the tone for discipline, endurance and morale. The soldiers of Crazy Troop celebrated the Fourth of July in the field, living on a replica base under conditions they would see overseas ... far different from the barbecues, picnics and fireworks they were accustomed to back home in the Northland.

As the training concluded, the soldiers of Crazy Troop were treated to a steak dinner served by patriotic Minnesotans from the group Serving Our Troops ( The group included the unit's Congressman, U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack. Cravaack, a military veteran himself, volunteered (despite the 100-degree temperatures) to spend several hours behind the grill line cooking steaks for the Minnesota soldiers. When his shift finished, he sought out the Cloquet soldiers and others in his district to shake their hands and discuss their training and upcoming mission overseas.

"It was really cool to talk to him personally; he is really down to earth and concerned about us as soldiers," said Specialist Nathan Hainline of


The visit from their Congressman was heartfelt to several other Cloquet soldiers as well.

"He is one of us and his care for those in uniform is unquestioned, something we've haven't had in our area in the past," proclaimed Staff Sgt. Timothy Schlenvogt of Cloquet.

"A lot of elected officials were at this event, but none matched the amount of time he spent walking through the crowds to meet the soldiers and their families from his district. That speaks volumes to those in uniform, even more knowing that he deployed during his 20 years of service," said Sgt First Class Troy Smith of Esko.

Shortly after the steak event, the soldiers spent another week in training before receiving a much deserved (and much anticipated) four-day weekend with their families.

Several of the families spent the weekend at Wisconsin Dells due to its close proximity to their training location in Wisconsin. Others rented cars to make the drive north for one final weekend at home in the Northland. In both cases, great experiences made for fond family memories, the kind that warm hearts and turn frowns into smiles when soldiers go off to war.

The long weekend was cherished by all and still in their thoughts upon their return to Wisconsin when they received the order to pack their bags and board the bus that would take them to the airport, signaling the next leg of the unit's historic journey. The smiles of anticipation from the unit's younger soldiers were ever-present, as were the mixed emotions of fathers, husbands, sisters and anyone else with someone back home, heavy on their mind, as the soldiers waited to board the plane.

Crazy Troop crossed "the pond" late into the night, touching down for fuel in Ireland before loading back into the plane to face the inevitable complexities of their current location. Upon landing in Kuwait the soldiers were greeted with a searing 125-plus-degree heat, the kind of heat that takes one's breath away. Soldiers on their first deployment commonly referenced the word "sauna" in describing the offensiveness of the conditions as they arrived in the Middle East. Crazy Troop was moved rapidly through a maze of locations and processes only to finally arrive to their permanent location in the middle of the night - most fighting a battle between jet-lag and hunger at the same time. The veteran leaders of the unit knew it was all part of the journey.

The soldiers of Crazy Troop met their outgoing counterparts from the New Hampshire Army National Guard and learned from them as they walked through what they had done to accomplish the mission during their deployment. The Minnesota and New Hampshire soldiers conducted a joint mission known as an "RIP" mission, which stands for relief in place. They accompanied the Cloquet soldiers and showed them the intricacies of the routes they would be travelling throughout Iraq as the Cloquet soldiers provide security to the logistical convoys of trucks tasked with removing the tons of American equipment still remaining in Iraq after years of war. A lot was learned and absorbed as Crazy Troop travelled hundreds of miles over several days to learn and discuss tactics; each examined against the Cavalry's own tactics to culminate a finished product for the unit's best possible chances at success throughout the perils of Iraq.

A ceremony marked the transfer of authority from New Hampshire's 3rd Battalion, 197th Field Artillery to Minnesota's 1st Squadron, 94th Cavalry, Aug. 17. The 94th Cavalry, Crazy Troop's parent organization, now controls the mission to provide security to the largest logistical movement of wartime supplies in known history, as the U.S. continues to move equipment out of Iraq.

The soldiers of Cloquet's Crazy Troop have proved vital in this endeavor, already logging over 50,000 miles throughout the Iraqi theatre of operations during their first month.