Whether Camp Ripley may be used for a mobilization station for the Army National Guard and Reserves will be part of a feasibility study.
In Brainerd Friday, Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman said the study is expected to be out in about 120 days in a report to Congress.
"I hope it is an affirmative answer because it makes sense," Coleman said of the military response. "I am committed to this."
He said Camp Ripley has the appropriate facilities and in fact has better options than some now being utilized. Coleman sought to add provisions to the Defense Authorization Bill to allow the study.
He said the idea to use Camp Ripley as a mobilization station was first presented during an April meeting at Camp Ripley to hear from National Guard and Reserve members, Camp Ripley leadership and the Little Falls community.
Camp Ripley was once one of 11 mobilization stations across the country, but the decision was made in 1994 to reduce the number of stations from 11 to four.
CAMP RIPLEY -- U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman,R-Minn., was to join members of Minnesota's National Guard in welcoming 40 soldiers from El Salvador at Camp Ripley as part of the Small Unit Familiarization Program with the U.S. Army. Satuday afternoon.
"As chairman of the Western Hemisphere subcommittee, I understand the importance of exchanges like this to strengthen our military services and help professionalize those of our allies," Coleman said in a news release. "This program is a win-win, and is part of the Camp Ripley tradition of providing excellent training for our troops. I am particularly pleased to see this level of cooperation occurring with El Salvador, which has been a steadfast ally in the war on terrorism. El Salvador has a contingent of troops currently in Iraq under Polish command."
The Small Unit Familiarization Program is a military exchange program that allows a select U.S. platoon and Latin American or Caribbean country the opportunity to enhance military relations and professionalism between military forces. The program increases international awareness by exposing soldiers to various geographical regions while developing military skills useful to units in those locations. Soldiers receive training in local military customs and courtesies, land navigation and weapons training.
Members of the Minnesota National Guard's Second Battalion, 135th Infantry from Mankato, and El Salvador's Destacamento Militar No. 4 (DM-4 Commandos) are participating in the military exchange. In March, 36 Minnesota National Guard soldiers traveled to San Francisco de Gotera, El Salvador. This week marks the beginning of the DM-4 Commandos training in Minnesota.
At Senator Coleman's invitation, El Salvador's ambassador to the United States, Rene Antonio Len Rodrquez, also was to address the troops. Maj. Gen. Larry Shellito, adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard , also was scheduled to participate.
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