MONTEVIDEO -- Gov. Tim Pawlenty will be joining hundreds of citizens from the area as during the upcoming two weekends 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.

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The troops will leave for training at Fort Hood, Texas, on April 19, with expectations of departing for Camp Virginia in north-central 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.

Community send-off plans for Saturday include the following:

Madison: A ceremonial send-off and get together for family, troops and community will begin at noon in the Madison-Marietta-Nassau Elementary School.

Ortonville: A ceremonial send-off will be held at 2 p.m. in the Ortonville High School, followed by a 6 p.m. dinner and 8 p.m. dance, both at the Big Stone Legion.

Morris: A deployment ceremony will be held beginning at 5 p.m. in the Morris Area Elementary School Gymnasium. Gov. Pawlenty and Major General Larry W. Shellito, Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard, are expected to participate.

A community meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the Lee Community Center and is free for soldiers and their families. A dance will follow at 8 p.m. at the National Guard Armory.

Plans for April 4 include the following:

Olivia: Doors open at the BOLD High School gymnasium at 3 p.m. for an afternoon of family fun and events, with a carnival for children and musical entertainment by the Harry Wojhan Band, Brittany Rohlik, BOLD High School Band, and Woodbury Singers of Renville County.

Gov. Pawlenty will speak at a 6 p.m. send-off program at the Bird Island Ballroom. It will be followed by a dinner and dance.

Montevideo: The doors of the Montevideo Training and Community Center, headquarters for the Battalion, will open at 1 p.m. Gov. and First Lady Pawlenty will be there to visit with troops, family and supporters.

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

Appleton: A ceremonial send-off event gets under way at 3 p.m. at the Lac qui Parle Valley High School.

Soldiers and their families will 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.

Marshall: Send-off events in Marshall get under way at 10 a.m. in the Southwest Minnesota State University gym.