As of Friday, about half of the 2,700 Minnesota National Guard members who had been stationed in Kuwait were back home in Minnesota, according to Lt. Col. Kevin Olson.
Most are reuniting with family and friends. Not all are reconnecting with employers, however. A Department of Employment and Economic Development study estimated that up to 19 percent of returning "Red Bulls" -- the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 34th Infantry Division -- would arrive home jobless.
Those stark statistics spurred an extensive state effort, including a trip to Kuwait in March by a nine-member interagency "Employment Resource Team."
One of the ERT members, Jim Finley, director of Veterans Employment Programs at DEED, reports that the employee and soldier response has been encouraging.
"There's been a big uptick in the number of employers online who identify themselves as military-friendly," Finley said. (Employers and vets can connect on positivelyminnesota.com/veterans.)
Several soldiers continued the ERT's work after the delegation returned by conducting mock interviews and preparing résumés, Finley said. "The goal was to make them more competitive, and I really believe they took that to heart."
DEED has been among the state agencies that sent delegations to Camp Shelby in Mississippi, where redeployed soldiers are processed. The soldiers "realize there are a lot of people who are serious about taking care of them as far as employment."
Some of those people work at Target Corp. On Monday, a kickoff meeting announced the official formation of a Military Business Council, which extends Target's long history of supporting deployed military members and their families.
"There's a huge effort from Minnesotans," Finley said. "It's very typical of our state."
John Rash is a Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist.