Minn. National Guard Soldiers Attacked in Afghanistan Adjust to Life at Home

Updated: 08/16/2014 5:44 PM
Created: 08/16/2014 4:47 PM
By: Kate Renner

Members of a Minnesota National Guard unit that was attacked on their base in Afghanistan by a suicide bomber this past winter met Saturday in Anoka to learn how to re-integrate into society.

The 849th Mobility Augmentation Company spent 11 months in Afghanistan. Of the unit’s 100 soldiers, five were wounded in the January attack and two were sent home early.

The company returned to Litchfield in June. The group participated in their 60-day reintegration program over the weekend.

Captain Matt Jukkala, 849th Mobility Augmentation Company Commander, has spent the past two months returning to life as a husband and a manager at Caterpillar Paving in Brooklyn Park.

"Deployed life was very simple,” Jukkala said. “You woke up, you ate, you got ready for your mission, you did your mission, you got back, cleaned your stuff, ate again and went to the gym and worked out. And just literally repeat.”

He was among those who were at Saturday’s workshop at Anoka County Technical College. The group focused on a range of topics, including employment and family life.

"(When) You get into civilian world it's really based on building repertoire with the people who report to you, getting to know people, networking, that you really don't have to lean so hard on in the military because of the rank structure and the structure of the organization," Jukkala said.

The company participated in a program after 30-days that focused on mental health concerns and emotional well-being.

One class on Saturday focused on changes in family structure.

"A year goes by and change is inevitable," said Major John Wisniewski, Family Program's Officer.

Jessica Jukkala leaned on the support of military spouses by attending monthly meetings. When her car broke down during her husband’s deployment, she turned to the military's Family Assistance Center for help.

Some of the responsibilities of the troops were to clear mines and other explosive devices from supply routes with heavy equipment.

Now that he’s back, Jukkala's duties have changed.

"There's a lot more decisions you have to make, you're responsible for your family," Jukkala said.

The company will meet again at the 90-day mark.

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