The Red Bulls: Return to War

Over the next two weeks, Minnesota National Guard soldiers are saying goodbye to their families and friends for a one-year assignment in Kuwait. Ceremonies around the state will mark the beginning of a new deployment for 2,400 members of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division. Minnesota Public Radio News explores the makeup of the division and why they've been called on again for duty in the Middle East.

Who are the Red Bulls?

The deploying Red Bull soldiers represent 530 communities throughout Minnesota and 15 other states. Men make up 94 percent of the brigade, and 39 percent are leaving behind at least one dependent child or spouse.

Graphic: Red Bulls by the numbers

Back again after a long tour

Attrition and turnover partly account for why more than 60 percent of the Red Bulls soldiers headed overseas this summer have never served in combat before.

Transporting troops, gear no easy task

Military family says goodbye

Freddy Munoz and his wife Jennifer say goodbye at their north metro home. Freddy is preparing to deploy with the National Guard for the second time. It comes at a difficult time: They are in the process of trying to adopt two children.

Schedule: Departure ceremonies around the state

Two generations of soldiers

The story of two men of different generations and considerably different life experiences who will put their lives on hold to serve the Army. Above, Wes Moechnig, a dairy farmer who lives with his parents on their farm near Lake City.

A dream wedding in days

The uncertainty of deployment meant Brian Wunderlich and Margarita Jacobson's wedding was planned quickly. Above, Margarita and her son Joseph after the ceremony.

More photos of the wedding

Profile: Col. Eric Kerska

Col. Eric Kerska is preparing to lead the Minnesota Red Bull soldiers into Iraq and Kuwait. He's been a soldier for nearly 30 years, and in the National Guard for more than 20 of them.

Read more about Red Bulls training

Studying family stress

A University of Minnesota study is the first of its kind to focus on parenting in National Guard families with soldiers who've served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The aim is to help families cope with the impact of combat deployment.

Credits

Reporters: Elizabeth Baier, Jessica Mador
Radio editors: Laura McCallum, Kate Smith
Online editors: Jennifer Ehrlich, David Cazares
Photographers: Jeffrey M. Thompson, Nikki Tundel
Web Producer: Justin Heideman