Courtesy photoMichaela Lavender, Pioneer ReviewCourtesy photo

Captain Edna Knutson Returns Home From Djibouti, Africa

Captain Edna Knutson recently returned home, to Philip, from a year long, voluntary deployment to Djibouti, Africa. Edna’s National Guard home unit is Medical Command (MED CMD), stationed in Rapid City, SD where she serves as a Medical Surgical Nurse. She requested to deploy with the 196th MEB, for her first deployment, because she “wanted to become a more well-rounded Soldier and a better leader. They were looking for one more officer to fill the role of Operations Administration.” Edna deployed with the 196th MEB, of Sioux Falls, SD on a chartered flight to Djibouti. She was grateful they selected her to go with very short notice. Deployments are beneficial for career advancement and improve compatibility for other positions across the South Dakota Army National Guard (SDARNG) and beyond.
Although Edna came on board the SD Army National Guard in 2005 as a Medic, she volunteered to deploy with the 196th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade (MEB) in a different capacity, working entirely outside of her career field. Edna is a Registered Nurse and works locally at Hans P. Peterson Memorial Hospital with a “fantastic team.” She is also self-employed; painting, designing, and installing signs primarily for Wall Drug for nearly 30 years with her husband, Barry Knutson.
When asked about her time in Djibouti, Edna had this to say, “I learned so much about myself, about the SD Guard, as well as service branches during this deployment. We were stationed at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, a United States Naval Expeditionary Base, the only permanent U.S. military base in Africa and home to Combined Joint Task Force –Horn of Africa, where we supported the operations directorate in an administrative capacity, and as resource advisor, security manager, and postal officer. Because I had no previous experience in operations or administration, I found myself putting in the extra time to learn the tasks required of me and my team of five.” She added, “It was hot and humid in Djibouti, and there is very little vegetation. I once overheard someone say, “it is always summer in Djibouti, with extreme heat in the prime summer months.” Very true! I considered myself very fortunate to work inside at a computer with air conditioning. In fact, physical activity such as running outdoors was not authorized when the black flag was up, which means it was over 90 degrees. The black flag was up quite a bit, and it was always humid. Even though it is still hot here at home, it is a dry heat, which makes a difference.”
Edna was fortunate to be able to leave camp on three occasions during her deployment. In December, she was granted a last-minute opportunity to run across the desert in the Grand Bara, an annual 15K held in Djibouti. This was an amazing experience. She told her family, “When will I ever get another opportunity to run a race in a desert in Africa with 1,000 people from all over the world?” The beginning of the race was signified by two French Mirage Jets that flew overhead. They returned again at the race record, which was 43 minutes – “it was pretty incredible!” While traveling to the race site, they saw camels, baboons, and many goats. They also had a couple of mongooses living on Camp Lemonnier. Below is a link from January 2020 that gives more information about the race.
COVID mitigation was paramount. Edna said they had to submit to quarantine prior to deployment to Djibouti, and again upon arrival, for a total of 40 days and nights. They were periodically and randomly COVID tested during deployment to ensure the safety of Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti and the country Djibouti itself. COVID was taken very seriously at Camp Lemonnier, and personnel who tested positive or were in close contact were isolated according to Camp policies. They wore masks daily at work, in compliance with Federal regulations until regulations were lessened. The only time they did not wear a mask was in their living quarters and when outside and socially distanced.
The 196th MEB found themselves on The Patriot’s plane on the last leg of their journey from Fort Hood, Texas to Sioux Falls. Edna ended by saying, “I am very thankful for the prayers, letters, and care packages from this amazing little town of Philip, from my home unit, MED CMD, and from a multitude of family, friends, and neighbors. The love, support, and prayers I received while deployed was outstanding and overwhelming. I am thankful to be back home, and forever and positively impacted by this experience. Most of all, I am thankful for my husband, Barry, my daughter, Kianna and her husband, Shane Binger, and my daughter Katlin and her boyfriend, Brock Swartos, who were an immense support to me while deployed.”
For more information about the 196h MEB, and what they do as a unit you can go to the following website.

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