MONTEVIDEO - Hundreds of people packed school gymnasiums around the region on Saturday- many wearing red colors in honor of the Red Bulls division- to send off the 560 soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 151st Field Artillery as they prepare for deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"Now we've made it very, very personal,'' said Major General Larry Shellito, adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard, during the send-off ceremony in Montevideo, headquarters for the battalion. Shellito's comments followed the roll call of the soldiers from the Montevideo unit, and his observation that the soldiers, their families and their communities are in this together.
The soldiers being deployed are with units based in Montevideo, Appleton, Olivia, Madison, Morris, Ortonville, and Marshall. They will leave April 19 for training at Fort Hood, Texas. They are expected to deploy in July for Camp Virginia in north-central Kuwait. They will provide convoy escort service to troops in Iraq and serve in command, maintenance, communication and medical roles at Camp Virginia.
They are scheduled to return to Minnesota in April, 2010.
The soldiers will be led by Lt. Col. Scott St. Sauver, who described his troops as well prepared, trained and resourced for the mission ahead. But he also told the family and community supporters in Montevideo that he knew when the orders came months ago that more than his soldiers were being called to duty. When soldiers in the western Minnesota communities that comprise the battalion are called, "you deploy each community,'' said St. Sauver.
"Role models,'' said Governor Tim Pawlenty of the troops. He was joined by First Lady Mary Pawlenty at the send-off events.