Send-off for sacrifice: ND National Guard unit prepares for yearlong mission
FARGO — Despite not being sent overseas, the sacrifice of deployment is still felt by families saying goodbye to members of the Grand Forks-based Army National Guard unit preparing for a yearlong mission in Washington, D.C.
A send-off ceremony for more than 200 deploying soldiers of the Guard's 1st Battalion, 188th Air Defense Artillery Regiment hailing from North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin and California took place at the Sanford Health Athletic Complex on Thursday, March 9. The soldiers will be helping carry out Operation Noble Eagle—the homeland security mission started in response to the Sept. 11 attacks.
This will be the 11th deployment for the 1-188th ADA since 2004, which makes it the most-deployed unit in the North Dakota National Guard. The 1-188th ADA supported the Operation Noble Eagle mission once before from July 2013 to April 2014. Prior to its National Capital Region mission, the unit deployed to Kosovo as part of a NATO peacekeeping mission, and air defense soldiers also have deployed six times to Afghanistan and twice to Iraq.
"I'm scared, but I think we'll be all right," said Angela Sager of her husband, Shane, leaving her to care for their four children. She said technology will play a big role in keeping the family, from Dilworth connected this year. She went along with her husband when he was first deployed to Kosovo and they married when they returned.
Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney told the unit that whether helping the city fight floods or assist law enforcement at the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, he's proud of the work the National Guard does throughout the state and protecting the nation's capital.
"You get 'er done," Mahoney said to the soldiers.
A greeting from Rep. Kevin Cramer was read and video messages from Sens. John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp were played for the audience. The senators shared similar sentiments about their gratitude for the soldiers leaving behind loved ones and putting their personal life on hold.
Heitkamp praised the unit for their "well-deserved reputation of excellence" and said she took comfort knowing that "North Dakota's finest" were helping to protect the capital and country.
"[But] that doesn't take any of the sting away of missing a birthday party or football game," Heitkamp said.
The unit's mission will involve collaborating with other Department of Defense agencies to protect the airspace around the National Capital Region.
Lt. Col. JoDee Aubol of West Fargo commands the unit and Command Sgt. Maj. Joshua Entzel of Bismarck is the senior enlisted leader.
The Superior Unit Award was presented to Lt. Col. Jon Erickson of Bismarck and Sgt. Maj. Wallace Keller of Bismarck, who led the last deployment to D.C. as part of Operation Noble Eagle.
An alert of the possible mobilization at the nation's capital came to the unit back in November 2016. They are scheduled to replaces guardsmen from a Florida-based National Guard unit that currently conducts the mission of monitoring and defending the region's airspace.