Staff Spotlight: Brian Jesness and Tom Keeler

Inver Hills Community College

Iraq War veterans served with 34th Red Bull Infantry Division

Tom Keeler and Brian Jesness made their way to the Inver Hills Community College workforce following different paths while sharing similar backgrounds. Tom is a library assistant; Brian is an administrative assistant. Both served in the Minnesota Army National Guard as print journalists, MOS 46Q, in the 34th Red Bull Division.

Both were deployed for a year in Iraq during the Iraq War. Brian was based from 2006 to 2007 at Camp Adder, aka Tallil Air Base, near the ancient city of Ur and An Nasiriya, a city of 860,000 on the Euphrates River. Tom served from 2007 to 2008 at Balad Air Base, aka Joint Base Balad and Camp Anaconda, the second largest U.S. base in Iraq during the war.

“We never saw each while we were in Iraq,” Brian said, “but we were in the National Guard when we first met. We were on state active duty in St. Paul, helping out during the Fargo Flood of 2009.”

As print journalists, Brian and Tom covered the stories of the U.S. soldiers in a war zone. Tom’s favorite stories came from his time riding along on convoys.

“Time went by fast when I was on convoy duty,” Tom said. “I visited a lot of new places and saw U.S. military personnel interacting with the Iraqi people. I would see soldiers doing many different jobs, from working at a fueling base for helicopters to setting up water facilities. I would do interviews and take photos. Our job was putting the good stories out there.”

Brian remembers the time he covered a story about the U.S. Army building a truck stop and restaurant for an Iraqi community near Nasiriya. “The economy was tough for the Iraqi people,” he said. “Earning $50 a month was considered a good wage. Semi drivers didn’t have sleepers on their cabs. They would spend the night sleeping under their trucks on the road. Not safe at all. The new truck stop was near a school and really gave a boost to the community. That was nice to see.”

Brian Jesness and Tom Keeler
Brian Jesness and Tom Keeler

At Inver Hills, Brian performs administrative duties for Stephen Strom, Ph.D., dean of STEM, business and public policy, and LeAnne Schmidt, interim associate dean of academic operations. He also handles all scheduling matters for issues beyond regularly scheduled credit courses, including space rental to outside parties. He earned an Associate of Science (A.A.) degree from Inver Hills in 2009 and went on to receive his Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Applied Business and Sustainability Studies from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

Tom’s duties as a library assistant center on helping students navigate the library and make the best use of library resources. He is earning his Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) at St. Catherine University and is on track to graduate spring 2017. His goal is to launch a career as a librarian. He would be happy working at a public or college library. He enjoys researching topics related to antiquities and studied history at the University of Minnesota, earning a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in 2004.

Army stories

Here are a couple of Tom Keeler’s favorites articles:

“Operations at Habur Gate”
Originally published in DVIDS, 2008
“B Company, 297th: Security in Iraq”
Originally published in The Alaska Guardsman, 2008

Here are a couple of Brian Jesness’ favorite articles:

“Minnesota Soldiers build school, business in southern Iraq”
Originally published in Military News Today, 2007
“1/34 BCT opens sixth water plant with international presence”
Originally published in Minnesota National Guard In the News

Brian Jesness
Brian Jesness

Brian Jesness

  • Age: 38
  • Star Wars Digital Trading CardsHometown: Eagan, Minnesota
  • Residence today: Richfield, Minnesota
  • Eagan High School Class of 2005
  • Branch of U.S. Armed Forces: Minnesota Army National Guard
  • Unit: 34th Red Bull Infantry Division
  • Rank: Specialist/E4
  • MOS: 46Q, Print Journalist
  • Years served: Six (2003–2009)
  • Future career goals: Interested in studying computer programming
  • Family: Wife Margaret plus a rescue Pomeranian, Sophie, two rescue mixes, Bandit and Penny, and one lone cat, Effie. Eight months out of the year, the family has four dogs when they take in another rescue.
  • Pastimes and hobbies: Anything Star Wars (gives The Force Awakens two thumbs up; baseball and Star Wars digital card trading; he keeps his collection on his phone
  • Three words that describe you as a person: Observant. Thoughtful. Creative.
Brian Jesness | 12 Answers
  1. Favorite natural feature (e.g., waterfalls, oceans, mountains, etc.): Lake Superior
  2. AntarcticaFavorite sport or physical activity: Shoveling snow
  3. Your national bird if you could have one: Laserbeak
  4. Place you would most like to visit: Antarctica
  5. Your personal motto if you had to have one: “Can we bring dogs to this?”
  6. Favorite band or performing artist: Bob Dylan
  7. Favorite all-time movie: The Empire Strikes Back
  8. One thing you most want to accomplish: Visit my last four untouched continents: Africa, Antarctica, South America and mainland Europe
  9. Your greatest talent: Shoveling snow
  10. First thing you would buy if you won a $1.5 billion Powerball: Vacation home on Lake Superior
  11. Person you would most like to meet: Any upcoming U.S. president
  12. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Playing the mandolin
Tom Keeler
Tom Keeler

Tom Keeler

  • Hometown: Bloomington, Minnesota
  • WWI Trench WarfareResidence today: St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Bloomington High School
  • Branch of U.S. Armed Forces: Minnesota Army National Guard
  • Unit: 34th Red Bull Infantry Division
  • Rank: Sergeant/E5
  • MOS: 46Q, Print Journalist
  • Years served: Six (2007–2013)
  • Future career goals: Work as a librarian in a public or college library
  • Pastimes and hobbies: Cooking, currently baking; reading, especially historical fiction and military books; enjoys poetry by WWI veterans; Brian is getting Tom started with digital trading cards
  • Three words that describe you as a person: Reflective. Open. Approachable.
Tom Keeler | 12 Answers
  1. Favorite natural feature (e.g., waterfalls, oceans, mountains, etc.): Aurora borealis (Tom and Brian are planning a trip to Lake Superior to see the northern lights)
  2. Aurora borealis over Lake SuperiorFavorite sport or physical activity: Baseball and softball
  3. Your national bird if you could have one: Crow
  4. Place you would most like to visit: Beaches of Normandy
  5. Your personal motto if you had to have one: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
  6. Favorite band or performing artist: Genre: folk singers playing acoustic guitar
  7. Favorite all-time movie: Bull Durham
  8. One thing you most want to accomplish: Stay in the moment
  9. Your greatest talent: Writing
  10. First thing you would buy if you won a $1.5 billion Powerball: Really long vacation
  11. Person you would most like to meet: Julius Caesar
  12. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Writing
To learn more about Inver Hills Community College, contact:

Information Center
651-450-3000
College Center

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