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Robb Jeffries, Forum News Service, Published April 28 2013

Hundreds honor ND National Guard troops at send-off

GRAND FORKS – State leaders gave their support to an overflow crowd Sunday morning at the send-off ceremony for the North Dakota National Guard 1st Battalion, 188th Air Defense Artillery Regiment. Hundreds of soldiers and their friends and families packed a ballroom in Grand Forks’ Alerus Center.

The Grand Forks-based unit is deploying more than 200 soldiers to Washington, D.C., as part of Operation Noble Eagle. Guard members will spend one year in the nation’s capital defending the skies from airborne threats.

“We want to say today that we are proud of you,” Gov. Jack Dalrymple said. “This mission to protect our nation’s capital will demonstrate yet again why our North Dakota National Guard is the best in the nation.”

Also addressing the soldiers and their families were U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. North Dakota’s junior senator, Heidi Heitkamp, was unable to attend but sent a letter that was read to the crowd.

The battalion is one of the most-used battalions in the Guard. This is its 10th deployment since 2004, including deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo.

“The 1-188 ADA only makes up about 10 percent of the North Dakota National Guard, but it has had 20 percent of its deployments,” Maj. Gen. David Spryncznatyk said.

Family connections were also emphasized at the send-off. The deploying group includes four pairs of siblings and three married couples, and leaders made sure to highlight the role of family members staying home.

Spryncznatyk encouraged the families to reach out to one another for support.

“It’s the family that makes the greater sacrifice,” Spryncznatyk said. “The Guard is a family, too, and families take care of each other.”