Call to arms reaches Maple Lake

The buildup of U.S. armed forces in the Persian Gulf is being felt throughout the country.  Even in Maple Lake.

Kurt Onstad, a major with the First Battalion, 340th Regiment, based in Arden Hills, was called up last week for up to a year of active duty. And Vicki Klemz, a Senior Airman in the U.S. Air Force, is serving as part of Operation Enduring Freedom in Pakistan.

Onstad was one of 70 Army Reservists in the First Battalion, 340th Regiment activated to serve as trainers at regional bases such as Fort McCoy in Wisconsin. The trainers will help prepare troops for overseas deployment.

Onstad’s wife, Sylvia, said not only was her husband called to active duty, but also Tim Kishel of Eveleth, husband of the Onstad’s daughter, Kelly.

“Luckily for us, they’ll be based in this area and won’t be going overseas, thank goodness,” Sylvia said. “But you never know. They could decide to send them over there.”

Sylvia said Kurt will likely be at the base for a couple of weeks at a time, then have two or three days for visits home.  “But it’s not as much of a hardship as it is for those deployed to the ends of the earth,” Sylvia said. “So we’re thankful for that.”

And bases in the midwest are a far cry from Pakistan, where Senior Airman Vicki Klemz has been a part of security forces at a base near the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan since December 16.

Vicki, a 1994 graduate of Maple Lake High School and the daughter of Dick and Connie Klemz, is a graduate of Moorhead State with a major in graphic communications. But Connie said that after Vicki’s graduation, the right job opportunities just weren’t there, which led her to enlist in the Airforce.

“She was looking for something challenging and she got it,” Connie said.

Vicki also found an opportunity to utilize her basketball skills, which she developed as a star player at MLHS. Connie said that Vicki’s involvement with the Airforce’s national basketball squad may have caused her to miss the first deployment of troops to Afghanistan after the events of 9/11.

That wasn’t the case in December, but it didn’t take the Klemz family by surprise.  “We knew she was going to be deployed somewhere,” Connie said. “We just didn’t know where. “But when I heard Pakistan, I was shocked. It just wasn’t the place I wanted her to be.”

It was to be a three-month deployment, with Vicki’s departure for home set for March 22. But Connie said they just received notice that her departure has been frozen indefinitely.  “She’s in our daughter’s wedding in June and I don’t know if she’s going to make it,” Connie said.

The base where Vicki is stationed is composed almost completely of tents, and Connie said the first permanent structure was just finished.

“She doesn’t leave the base,” Connie said. “They’re all kind of stuck in that tent city. But Vicki did say they just got some TV’s for the tents, which helps.”

But the conditions at the base are considerably better than those endured by the local population. Connie said Vicki has told them about contaminated water, food and other hardships faced by many in Pakistan.

“Vicki said when you sit down and say your prayers, you thank God for being an American.”

Vicki was able to be contacted by the Messenger through the Internet and provided the following first-hand account of life in one of the world’s hottest spots.

“My job as Security Forces is to basically secure the base,” Vicki said. “We respond to any incident on base that is either potentially hostile or non hostile. We work jointly with the U.S Army and also the Pakistan Army and Air Force. The threat level anywhere in an overseas location is greater for anybody that wears a military uniform. However, the threat is potentially higher in Pakistan because it neighbors Afghanistan and because Al Quida activists and supporters exist within the area. It is not uncommon to hear gunfire from unknown locations off-base.     “The living conditions are extremely poor compared to what we are used to and the air quality is very polluted. All of the food that we eat gets flown in from the U.S, as we were advised not to eat the local food. The running water is contaminated and cannot be used for drinking, cooking, or even to brush our teeth. Instead, we use bottled water. Showers are limited to 30 seconds of running water due to the limited supply of water. It's like going on a camping trip for months and only being able to take with you the bare necessities to live off of.

“It has been a struggle getting thru the holidays without family and friends from home. The 15 minute phone call we are allotted just wasn’t enough when you want to make it a point to talk to everyone on Christmas. It is really hard to see the "moms" and "dads" that I am deployed with as they struggle through these long months without being able to have contact with their young ones. Some of them fear their littlest ones will start forgetting them. All the troops have really come together and been very supportive of one another, especially through the holiday season. We are very focused and dedicated to the mission, but each of us felt a little bit of emptiness over the holidays.     “I was telling my family over the Christmas Holidays to truly be thankful for what we have as Americans. Sometimes even the littlest things like having clean clothes, warm showers, and our health, get taken for granted in this technologically advanced society that we live in. It is easy to miss the big picture.     “By the way, if anybody wants to write me from home, my email address is vicki.klemz@jbab.aorcentaf.af.mil.”



But Vicki did say they just got some TV’s for the aalocal food. The running water is contaminated and cannot be used for drinking, cooking, or even to brush our teeth. Instead, we use bottled water. Showers are limited to 30 seconds of running water due to the limited supply of water. It's like going on a camping trip for months and only being able to take with you the bare necessities to live off of.  “It has been a struggle getting thru the holidays without family and friends from home. The 15 minute phone call we are allotted just wasn’t enough when you want to make it a point to talk to everyone on Christmas. It is really hard to see the "moms" and "dads" that I am deployed with as they struggle through these long months without being able to have contact with their young ones. Some of them fear there littlest ones will start forgetting them. All the troops have really come together and been very supportive of one another, especially through the holiday season. We are very focused and dedicated to the mission, but each of us felt a little bit of emptiness over the holidays.   “I was telling my family over the Christmas Holidays to truly be thankful for what we have as Americans. Sometimes even the littlest things like having clean clothes, warm showers, and our health, get taken for granted in this technologically advanced society that we live in. It is easy to miss the big picture.   “By the way, if anybody wants to write me from home, my email address is vicki.klemz@jbab.aorcentaf.af.mil.”



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