Brad Ommodt has had decades of service to his community, his state and his country as a member of the Minnesota National Guard.
Brad joined the National Guard in his junior year of high school in 1985 while he attended Butterfield-Odin School. He attended basic training between his junior and senior year of high school to get a head start on his service.
The first five years of his Guard Service, was performed as an enlisted man. He went on to college at Mankato State University and joined the ROTC program at MSU.
ROTC is a is a college-based scholarship program for training commissioned officers of the United States armed forces.
He described the first years of his service as a time that was good to be in the local unit of St. James. “You get to know all of the people,” Brad said. There were training deployments that lasted about a month that took the Guard to places like South Korea and to Norway.
When Brad graduated from ROTC and MSU, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the National Guard.
As an officer, the Guard, “Moves you around every two years,” Brad said. He was with the 125th Field Artillery, but he was posted to different armories around the region.
He spent time as an officer in St. James, Windom, Luverne and Jackson. He was the commander of Bravo Battery in Jackson for three years.
Brad and his wife Val spent those years starting and raising a family and Brad started a career with Mathiowetz Construction out of Sleepy Eye as a Marketing and Project Manager.
As far as his Guard service went, life was pretty predictable. Then 9/11 happened. Brad was working down in Iowa on a construction project. Recalling his reaction to 9/11 as it concerned his Guard service Brad said, “I wasn’t too concerned with it at the time. Val was.” Val had a sense that this could be bad.
The Gaurd deployments started to come. There have been three so far. In 2003-2004 the 125th Artillery was deployed to Germany to back fill units that had been sent to Iraq. While Germany was a ‘safe’ country, in that it wasn’t in a war zone, Val said it was still hard on the family.
In part, because the time Brad was away was much longer than any of the one month overseas training missions he’d previously experienced. Val said, “It was our first deployment, so that was a tough one because our kids were so little.” The Ommodt’s had twins in third grade at the time and a ninth grader.
Page 2 of 3 - One of the other challenges on the home front was that local support groups were just starting up.
The other interesting aspect in comparing the three deployments was that in ways the Germany deployment was the hardest because the communication was the most difficult.
Brad’s second deployment was to Iraq and his third deployment was to Afghanistan both of them war zones, but communication was progressively easier in spite of the fact the countries did not have as well developed infrastructure as Germany did.
But over that time period the ‘world wide web’, e-mail, cell phones and skype became more prevalent so Brad could more easily reach Val and the kids. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how far the ability to communicate around the world has advanced in the last decade.
Though an advanced industrial country, Germany offered limited communication between now Captain Ommodt and his family back home. There was a call home once a week, some e-mail and soldiers were sent calling cards.
As the Iraq War intensified, Brad and his unit faced another call-up. “The entire 1st Brigade Combat Team of Minnesota had a mobilization notification,” Brad said.
His unit was deployed to a forward operating base in Iraq. “There was a lot of action all the time,” Brad said, “There were a lot of scary moments. There was a lot of indirect fire, a lot of IEDs. The battalion lost five people.”
Even though he was in an active war zone, the communication between Brad and his family was much better. Partly because Val got a cell phone, which is about the time many people started changing from having just landlines to incorporating cell phones as part of how families communicated. The beefed up communications by the U.S. military in Iraq meant that it was easier for e-mail to get through.
It was a long deployment. First there was the training stateside, then there was the Iraq deployment that was scheduled for a year. As the 125th Field Artillery was getting ready to come home, President George W. Bush extended their tour as part of an Iraq War escalation.
Val found out about this before Brad was told in Iraq. She called him up and said, “I heard on the news you were staying.” The news hadn’t been broken to the unit in Iraq. He found out about it through the chain of command the next day.
This improved communication was helpful, when Val and Brad’s son Cayden was seriously injured in a dirt bike accident. The news got to him faster, and the ability to stay in close communication during this crisis was a comfort for both Val and Brad.
Page 3 of 3 - When Brad returned stateside, he transitioned into a Guard unit with a new mission. Brad became part of the Minnesota Agribusiness Development Team - ADT.
It was a 22 member unit. The ADT was deployed to Afghanistan more than a year ago and it was dedicated to a specific mission of helping the Afghan government develop the governmental infrastructure necessary for a Department of Agriculture. It also involved teaching Afghan farmers about good agricultural practices. Still it was a National Guard unit and Brad was always armed when he ventured out in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan might have been the most backward country, but communication back home was the easiest. “We used skype every night,” Val said.
ADT is a small unit, with Brad being the only Guard member from southern Minnesota, so Val got support from the community, friends and family.
After a year deployment, Brad came home in September. The last two deployments saw his rank increase first to Major and then to Lt. Col.
Lt. Col. Ommodt has had a great deal of satisfaction with his long career. It has allowed him to advance professionally and raise a family. It will be 28 years of service in the Guard next January. Brad’s found it a satisfying career. Right now he’s enjoying mentoring young Guard members, many of whom are the same age Brad was when he started.