In the 15 years since the U.S. invaded Iraq, members of the Minnesota National Guard have deployed on combat and humanitarian missions around the world.
The Minnesota Guard's 34th Infantry Division — also known as the "Red Bulls" — deployed to Iraq in 2006. The deployment lasted 22 months, 16 of them in Iraq, in what became the longest consecutive combat tour for a Guard unit at the time.
This year, about 1,000 Guard members will deploy overseas, in units that range in size from three to four members to hundreds of troops at a time.
Lt. Col. Patricia Baker is a helicopter pilot — and the rare career member of the Minnesota National Guard. She enlisted in the early 1990s, went to college in North Dakota to become an aviator, and deployed to Iraq with the U.S. Army in 2003 and then again in 2008. Her father and several other members of her family are also members of the military.
She spoke with Weekend Edition host John Wanamaker about training for combat, what it's like to serve alongside active-duty troops, and the highs and lows of a career in the Guard.
Click the audio player above to listen to the interviews.