16 November 2014

Minnesota, Iowa Soldiers to Deploy to Ebola Mission

More than 700 citizen-soldiers wearing the 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division shoulder patch will deploy to support humanitarian relief efforts in Liberia in Spring 2015, according to a Nov. 16 news release from the Minnesota National Guard.

The 6-month mobilization is part of "Operation United Assistance." Members of the Rosemount, Minn-based division will provide command and control of U.S. military forces deployed as part of United States Agency for International Development's (U.S.A.I.D.) efforts to contain outbreaks of Ebola virus in that country.

The announcement comes just days after U.S. Department of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel signed an order authorized the mobilization of 2,100 U.S. National Guard and reserve troops for Operation United Assistance.

"Our mission will be to coordinate all of the Department of Defense resources in Liberia to support USAID and the government of Liberia to contain the Ebola virus, and ultimately save lives," said Army Maj. Gen. Rick Nash, the adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard. Nash himself is a former commander of the division.

"And importantly for the Liberian people," Nash continued, "the Minnesota National Guard presence will provide confidence that something can and will be done to stop the spread of disease."

In Iowa, approximately 80 citizen-soldiers of the Washington-based 294th Area Support Medical Company (294th A.S.M.C) have also been notified of possible deployment, according to a Nov. 16 news release from the Iowa National Guard. The unit is part of Iowa's 67th Troop Command, and wear a "Hawkeye" shoulder patch with origins in 34th Inf. Div. history.

According to Iowa National Guard officials, the 294th ASMC provides full-spectrum medical support operations for a designated area of operations, including casualty triage, basic medical treatment and sustainment of life, and transport of injured and sick personnel. The unit will also deploy for six months, during which time it will provide direct patient care to U.S. Department of Defense and coalition personnel only.

In Minnesota, officials are taking similar pains to emphasize that Red Bull soldiers will not treat Ebola patients.

The 34th Inf. Div. headquarters will relieve the Fort Campbell, Kentucky-based 101st Airborne Division, known as the "Screaming Eagle." The Iowa National Guard's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Inf. Div. (2-34th BCT) served under the 101s Airborne Div. during a 2010-2011 deployment to Afghanistan.

The Red Bull soldiers are anticipated to depart Minnesota in March 2015 for pre-mobilization training before deploying to Monrovia, Liberia in April 2015 to assume command from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) (101st Abn. Div.), according to the news release. All troops deploying to West Africa will receive specific medical training—developed in conjunction with U.S. Army Public Health Command—and utilize specialized personal protective equipment to ensure they are protected from exposure.

"Preserving the health of our soldiers is the highest priority for this mission," said Army Maj. Gen. Neal Loidolt, commanding general of the 34th Inf. Div. "Extra steps are being taken to protect the soldiers' health, including personnel protective equipment and educating the soldiers about the diseases prevalent in the area."

"This mission highlights the versatility of the National Guard," said Loidolt. "In addition to being deployed for domestic emergencies in Minnesota, many of these Red Bull soldiers have been deployed for peacekeeping in Bosnia and Kosovo; and warfighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. I am confident that our citizen-soldiers are up to the task of providing humanitarian aid in Western Africa."

Minnesota's 34th Inf. Div. headquarters previously deployed to Iraq under the command of Maj. Gen. Nash, where the unit provided command and control of Multi-National Division South.

Iowa's 294th ASMC previously deployed in 2009 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, where the unit provided full spectrum medical support at the Taji Theater Internment Facility Reintegration Center (T.I.F.R.C.).

A Nov. 16 news release from the National Guard Bureau lists these units to be deployed:
  • 34th Infantry Division Headquarters, Minnesota Army National Guard
  • 16th Engineer Brigade Headquarters, Ohio Army National Guard
  • 223rd Military Intelligence Battalion (Linguist Detachment), California Army National Guard
  • 272nd Engineer Company (Vertical Construction), Texas Army National Guard
  • 294th Area Support Medical Company, Iowa Army National Guard
  • 891st Engineer Battalion, Kansas Army National Guard

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