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Local Guard troops deploying for war effort

By Tom Cherveny

West Central Tribune

MONTEVIDEO -- Some 560 soldiers with the Minnesota Army National Guard's 1st Battalion 151st Artillery will be deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom, Major General Larry Shellito announced Friday afternoon at the battalion's headquarters in Montevideo.

The soldiers are deploying from units in Montevideo, Appleton, Marshall, Madison, Olivia, Morris and Ortonville.

This will be the first deployment for 73 percent of the soldiers, according to Lt. Col. Scott Sauver. He will be leading the soldiers as battalion commander.

The five units with the 1st Batallion, 151st Artillery were deployed to Iraq in 2004-05.

The soldiers will begin training in Fort Hood, Texas, in April for this 12 months mission. They will be based at Camp Virginia, in north central Kuwait, and provide convoy security and force protection for supplies transported to coalition forces in Iraq.

"They're ready,'' said St. Sauver at a news conference with General Shellito.

Soldiers have known about the impending deployment for months. The field artillery troops have been training for a new role in which they will use heavily armored vehicles to provide convoy protection.

Lt. Col. St. Sauver said this mission is different from the deployment in 2004-05. The local units have an already identified mission, unlike 2004 when the troops didn't know their exact role until reaching Iraq. They will be replacing soldiers with the 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team from the Hawaii Army National Guard.

The 560 Minnesota troops will be part of a 2,900 soldier operation with four convoy security companies providing around the clock operations throughout the entire Iraqi theatre. The Minnesota soldiers will be serving with troops from Wyoming, South Dakota, Alabama and Colorado.

Lt. Col. 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.

The Minnesota troops will provide much of the convoy protection in southern Iraq, where over 1,000 other Minnesota Guard troops are providing security protection.