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Troop send-off events to be held today

Derek Hauptli, 22, right, was honored Friday by his co-workers at American Welding in Willmar with a party. Hauptli will be deployed, along with fellow members of the Montevideo National Guard, to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

MONTEVIDEO -- Gov. Tim Pawlenty will be joining hundreds of citizens from the area today for send-off events for local troops headed to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Some 560 soldiers with the Minnesota Army National Guard's 1st Battalion 151st Artillery are being deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom. The soldiers are deploying from units in Montevideo, Olivia, Appleton, Marshall, Madison, Morris and Ortonville.

Send-off events in Marshall get under way at 10 a.m. in the Southwest Minnesota State University gym. Gov. Tim and first lady Mary Pawlenty will speak at 11:30 a.m.

They will speak at 1 p.m. today in Montevideo. The event is at the Montevideo Training and Community Center, headquarters for the Battalion.

A send-off banquet for the soldiers and their families, as well as those interested in showing their support, will be at the TACC from 4:30 to 7 p.m. The Johnny Holm Band will perform at 8 p.m.

The Pawlentys will speak at 3 p.m. at the Lac qui Parle Valley High School in rural Madison.

Soldiers and their families will later join at Shooter's Bar and Grill in Appleton for a meal followed by a dance. The community is welcome to attend and show their support as well.

Doors open at 3 p.m. at the BOLD High School gymnasium in Olivia, where the Pawlentys will be speaking later in the evening at 5:30. The afternoon events include a carnival for children and musical entertainment by the Harry Wojhan Band, Brittany Rohlik, BOLD High School Band, and Woodbury Singers of Renville County.

Send-off events were last weekend in Madison, Morris and Ortonville.

The troops will leave for training at Fort Hood, Texas, on April 19, with expectations of departing for Camp Virginia in northcentral Kuwait in mid-July.

This is the first deployment for 73 percent of the soldiers, according to information provided by the Minnesota National Guard when announcing the deployment. The field artillery troops will be using heavily armored vehicles to provide convoy protection.

The troops will be led by Lt. Col. Scott St. Sauver. The Minnesota troops will be part of a 2,900-soldier brigade with soldiers from units in Wyoming, South Dakota, Alabama and Colorado.

In announcing the deployment, St. Sauver said that about 400 to 450 of the Minnesota soldiers will be directly involved with convoy escort service, while the remainder will serve in command, maintenance, communication and other missions at Camp Virginia.