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Dave Olson, Published January 24 2011

Minnesota Guard to deploy 2,400 to Iraq, Kuwait

The Minnesota National Guard is preparing for its second-largest deployment since World War II.

This time, more than 2,400 members of the First Brigade Combat Team will be heading for Iraq and Kuwait.

That includes about 600 soldiers of the 1-194th Armor Battalion, which is out of Brainerd but includes soldiers from other central Minnesota communities like Alexandria, St. Cloud and Sauk Centre, said Lt. Col. Brian Melton of Moorhead, who will command the battalion.

The soldiers will provide base and convoy security, according to Melton, who is also the Clay County attorney. He will take a leave of absence from that job while he is deployed.

Col. Eric Kerska, who will command the brigade, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the biggest challenge will be to keep the troops focused even though the threat has diminished.

The last time the brigade was sent to Iraq, about four years ago, it became the longest-serving unit in the war, according to the Star Tribune report.

Pre-deployment training will begin in May at Fort McCoy, Wis. The brigade is expected to be in Kuwait by late summer for a year-long mission.

The Associated Press contributed to this article

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555