Camp Ripley looks to a busy spring, summer

Brig. Gen. Lowell Kruse plans to retire after a six years at the helm. Kruse presented the annual update before the Baxter City Council highlighting activities, changes at Camp Ripley.

Brig. Gen. Lowell Kruse speaks at a podium in front of the Baxter City Council.
Brig. Gen. Lowell Kruse, Camp Ripley commander, speaks at a podium in front of the Baxter City Council Tuesday, April 4, 2023, at City Hall.<br/>
Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

BAXTER — When the skies are clear in May and July and there is the rumble of thunder, it’s probably Camp RIpley.

Officials at the training facility expect those two months to be noisier with artillery units in for training.

Brig. Gen. Lowell Kruse, senior commander at Camp Ripley, was before the Baxter City Council to give Camp Ripley’s annual report on Tuesday, April 4. On a night when streets were icy with a rain/snow mix, Kruse greeted the council by joking they all skated in for the meeting. As Camp Ripley commander, Kruse gives the annual report to area governmental bodies that serve as Camp Ripley’s neighbors and said providing the updates is something he enjoys and values as a communication tool to those living near the 53,000 acre military facility. Communicating the importance of the training area for military readiness, the local jobs and payroll flowing in area communities, and the environmental efforts are part of maintaining support for a facility that at times produces noise and dust, Krust said.

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Kruse described his mission as providing the best training resource for the nation’s military as well as the National Guard for Minnesota’s worst day, while being a good neighbor.

With his approaching retirement, Kruse said this series of updates will likely be his last to give.


“I'm ending my six-year command at Camp Ripley,” Kruse said. “And this will probably be the last round with community briefs that I do. Sometime this summer, my wife and I are probably going to move to our retirement home over in South Dakota.”

Kruse said he was trading lake country for the Plains.

“We are going to miss you,” Baxter Mayor Darrel Olson told Kruse.

May and July will feature artillery units

As for the annual update, Kruse said the camp is busy with an uptake of reserve soldiers training at the facility along with partners with the Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force and mobile diving and salvage units that work with Navy SEALs. Kruse said he expects to see SEAL teams at Camp Ripley in the next couple of years. The camp is seeing more winter training as the Department of Defense has a strategy to increase readiness to be able to respond in arctic regions. The Coast Guard is in its third year at the camp with ice diving and utilizing the Minnesota School of Diving’s diving tank in Brainerd as part of their training.

“They used to go from Seattle for a portion of their training and then all the way up into Canada for the remaining part,” Kruse said. “And now it's all here locally in the Brainerd lakes area.”

He noted the 194th Armor Regiment successfully came back from a deployment to Kuwait and they were involved in activities at the Kabul airport in leaving Afghanistan.

I'm ending my six-year command at Camp Ripley. And this will probably be the last round with community briefs that I do.
Brig. Gen. Lowell Kruse

“And this February, we had the extreme pleasure of celebrating 50 years of having our Norwegian exchange partnership with the country of Norway,” Kruse said. “And we capped that off with an official partnership agreement that's ratified now by the Department of Defense, what we call the State Partnership Program.”


Kruse said units from Iowa, North Dakota and Illinois will arrive for training in May for a busy month.

“We do have some field artillery and armor up, and they will be doing some gunnery, so we'll be producing some noise, predominantly in May, for the field artillery,” Kruse said.

June is a little quieter and includes Officer Candidate School training with young people from five states. July brings in more field artillery. August training will include another armor battalion with some demolition making a noise in the Pillager area.

Kruse noted there are also a lot of resources for soldiers with investments in quality of life, counseling and efforts to assist with mental health, substance abuse and suicide awareness and he also wanted community members to know those resources are there for those serving and for veterans.

Residents should expect to see smoke from Camp Ripley in May as controlled burns are planned for 15,000 acres if they can get that in between the snow melt and green up.

Kruse also cautioned if anyone sees something that looks like unexploded munitions, don’t pick it up but report it and they will take care of it.

Camp Ripley will host an open house Sept. 17.

“I really enjoy this time of the year, to get out and tell the Camp Ripley story,” Kruse said, adding it’s his job to take care of the facility to the best of his ability but more importantly to let the people know the resource is theirs.


Council member Connie Lyscio said something Kruse said the first time she heard him speak about the noise from the artillery units being the sound of freedom stuck with her. Growing up, she said the loud bangs could be annoying, but ever since Kruse said that, she’s shared that new perspective with her own family.

“I appreciate that, and obviously that’s why we do this,” Kruse said of the annual briefing.

Olson said Baxter has had a great working relationship with Camp Ripley and they hope to continue that going forward.

Baxter City Council members and staff listen to Brig. Gen. Lowell Kruse.
Brig. Gen. Lowell Kruse presents the annual report to the Baxter City Council Tuesday, April 4, 2023, at City Hall.
Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

Report highlights included

  • About $9 million in construction projects at Camp Ripley. 
  • The Army Compatible Use Buffer program is expected to be funded with $1.7 million for fiscal year 2023. The funding goes into conservation easements on the camp’s perimeter, which preserves natural habitat while protecting the training center from encroaching development that could create difficulties for activity at the camp in the future. 
  • Camp employment is about 800-1,000. Some are working in a hybrid situation, but the vast majority work at the base. 
  • Camp Ripley has the longest stretch of the Mississippi without development. About 2,000 acres of the 53,000 acres facility is built upon for the base. 
  • Doubling rail capacity with two new rail spurs that will allow the loading of two trains at once, important for mobilizing and moving the armored brigade. 
  • A new battalion headquarters building to give training units a lot of space. 
  • Designing a new access that will allow the camp to retain the current main gate as a historic site but meet new Army requirements to control access to the camp. 
  • Dirt airstrip to allow practice in those expeditionary sites with C-130 aircraft practicing in landing on those conditions.
  • The Minnesota Military and Veterans Museum is expected to reopen in 2024-2025 and is asking the Legislature for another $15 million for the new 40,000 square foot museum parallel with Highway 371 and east of the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery. Camp Ripley has the conning tower or sail from the USS Minneapolis-St. Paul submarine and Kruse said that will be moved to the museum site and when in place it will look as though the submarine is coming up out of the ground as though it was surfacing from the water. 
  • The Minnesota State Patrol will graduate one academy in May and will begin another academy class later in the summer.
  • An Air Force partner will be doing parachute jumps in May. 
  • The DNR will have a law enforcement academy May through August. 
  • Minnesota Department of Transportation snowplow drivers will be in to get ready for the season in September. 
  • Camp Ripley’s award winning environmental program was once again recognized with a national award. The camp has three collared mother bears and each one had three cubs this winter. The camp is also working to protect the endangered northern long-eared bat and plan for any tree removal time. 

In other business, the council:

Appointed Abram Overland, Cowen Cremers, Eric Hebert, and Mylez Deck at $15.25 per hour; Samantha Berent, Joseph Niklaus, and Alexandria Dwyer at $16.00 per hour; and Randall Sawyer, Elsa Overland, and Jackson Dwyer at $16.75 per hour as seasonal park attendants. The city annually fills about 10 seasonal park positions for mowing, ball field maintenance, restroom cleaning, opening and closing of parks and monitoring Whipple Beach.

Approved a LandWerz Excavating and Landscaping three-year contract for street sweeping

Awarded the 2023 Cypress Drive and Douglas Fir Drive construction project to Kraemer Trucking and Excavating, Cold Spring, for $3,646,482.


Approved an agreement with Widseth, Baxter, for services for the 2023 Novotny Road project for $53,292.

Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at @DispatchBizBuzz.

Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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