Tennis coach now serving his country
As the Benson/KMS tennis team clinched the West Central South Conference title on Tuesday, head coach Don Brehmer was celebrating his 100th career coaching win over 7,000 miles away. Brehmer, who started coaching the BKMS girls team in 2003, has been stationed in Camp Buehring, Kuwait, since July. He is part of the 1st Batallion 151st Field Artillery from Montevideo and is an S-1 Section Chief.
Despite being absent, Brehmer considers all the records the Braves amass while he is on military leave to be his. In honor of his 100th win, under interim coach Jonas Grossman, the team took a picture after the match and held a sign that read "Congratulations Don on your 100th win".
"It was exciting for me (that the team sent a picture)," said Brehmer, via e-mail. "This is why I do this. These kids are great and they appreciate the things we do and so do the parents. Very special."
Brehmer talked to the tennis team on the telephone after one of their matches and plans on doing it again soon despite the eight-hour time difference. He stays in contact with Grossman via e-mail. Brehmer is also the head baseball coach at Benson, with John Reardon serving as interim coach until he returns.
Brehmer is a junior high basketball referee in the winter. He follows local and national sports on the internet and on television that is available in the dining facilities.
"We keep track of all the sports through the West Central Tribune online," he said. "I try to get on the computer and track the sports on the internet whenever I can."
Brehmer, an industrial technology instructor at Benson High School, has been a member of the National Guard for the past 32 years and isn't scheduled to return home from military duty until next spring.
"I would have retired last year, except I heard about the battalion being deployed and I wanted to make sure I got to go this time," Brehmer said. "After being in the Minnesota National Guard for 30 years, this is something meaningful and it gives one a sense of accomplishment for the service that I have put in. To serve for 30 years and to have been mobilized for only flood duty one time didn't seem right."
Brehmer is presently serving duty at Camp Buehring in Kuwait. He is in a safe and quiet environment, he says.
"We are here to provide for the needs of the troops within our battalion that do the security for the convoy missions," he said. "They drive into all areas of Iraq, and the troops back in our camp make sure they have everything they need to do the job without worrying about anything else. The escort teams are the ones that are in danger. We feel no danger whenever we are in our Forward Operating Base and while in Kuwait. There have been situations of terrorists captured in Kuwait while we were here, but no different than if we were anywhere else."
In Brehmer's unit, there are three or four soldiers to a room. There are community bathrooms located nearby. They have access to cell phones, telephones, computers and Armed Forces Network television.
"These things cost a little," he said. "And then we have USO's on all the bases for communication on computers or telephones."
Brehmer's battalion provides security to the convoys that haul all the supplies and equipment needed by troops throughout Iraq. Without the security escort, supplies would never make it to the needed destinations.
"We are all very proud to be able to do the job we do," said Brehmer. "All the soldiers feel the same way I do. I wish I could do more, but we all have a job and without any of us, the job would not get done very well."
Brehmer's main duties are to make sure the S-1 section members take care of all the battalion administrative needs such as medical issues, salary, insurance and legal needs. He is also the Victims Advocate for his unit, as well as the Equal Opportunity Representative for the BN, and the BN Army Substance Abuse Program Representative.
Temperatures in Kuwait are generally in the 100s and have reached as high as 128 degrees during Brehmer's stay. It cools down to the low 80s at night and there is little humidity. And there are also sandstorms to contend with.
"To most of us, we are proud to do this job and serve our country," Brehmer explains about dealing with adversity. "The real sacrifice comes from the families back home, many of whom are alone with little ones or doing all the tasks in the home."
Brehmer said he and other soldiers are very appreciative of all the support communities show the troops, such as care packages, and helping a soldier's family with various needs.
"They are the reason why I think it is so important that we are here doing this," he said. "I can't say enough thanks to the people back home."
The Benson/KMS tennis team is currently 19-0, won the West Central South Conference title, and has an eye on earning a trip to the state tournament. Postseason action begins today.
And the coach will be there every step of the way, even if it's online from 7,000 miles away.