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Published May 21 2010

Minnesota National Guard unit on alert for deployment

A Moorhead-based infantry battalion may be among more than 2,700 Minnesota National Guard soldiers deploying to Kuwait and Iraq next year, the Department of Defense announced on Thursday.

“Right now, all we know is there’s a potential for a possible deployment, which we don’t know if we’re part of or not,” said Maj. Aaron Krenz, officer-in-charge of the Moorhead-based 2nd Combined Arms Battalion of the 136th Infantry, which has 954 soldiers spread across northwest Minnesota.

“But as every good military unit does, we are always preparing in the event that something does happen,” he added.

The battalion is part of the Bloomington-based 1st Brigade Combat Team, which was put on alert Thursday to prepare for a summer 2011 deployment.

The battalion has units in Bemidji, Crookston, Detroit Lakes, Grand Rapids, Long Prairie, Thief River Falls, Wadena and at Camp Ripley.

Battalion members were with the 1st Brigade Combat Team when it served a 22-month deployment from 2005 to 2007, as soldiers got caught in the tail end of the troop surge extension, he said. A number of the battalion’s soldiers are combat veterans who’ve taken part in previous deployments.

“But, for the most part, there’s a lot of new soldiers who either haven’t deployed with this battalion or have deployed with other units,” Krenz said.

The 1st Brigade Combat Team has 37 units from 42 Minnesota communities.

Its soldiers will provide security forces to support Operation New Dawn, the name given to the draw-down phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Guard stated in a news release.

“The soldiers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team have the unique experience and knowledge required to successfully complete this mission,” Maj. Gen. Larry Shellito, adjutant general of the Minnesota Guard, stated in a news release.

The final list of deploying units will be announced early next year.

The possible call-up wasn’t a complete surprise, Krenz said. There was talk of another deployment, but no official word until Thursday, he said, noting the military is sensitive to concerns of soldiers and their families when releasing such information.

“We understand this can throw some anxiety and stress into their lives,” he said.

Soldiers were put on alert now to give them as much time as possible to complete their training and inform family members and employers of their possible deployment, the Guard stated in the release.

Such advance notice has become the norm as Guard units have played an increasingly active role in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, Krenz said.

“It does help communities and families prepare for possible deployments, rather than a short timeline of suspense, which throws sometimes a lot of people into crisis,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528