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100+ Kansas National Guard soldiers to deploy to Middle East in 2021

130th Field Artillery Brigade Artillery, Kansas Army National Guard. (Photo by U.S Army National Guard Spc. William Polly/Released)

The Kansas National Guard’s 130th Field Artillery Brigade based in Manhattan will deploy to the Middle East in early 2021.

The brigade, which includes a little over 100 people, is doing pre-mobilization training at Fort Bliss, Texas, where they arrived about two weeks ago. They will leave directly from Texas to the U.S. Central Command area, which spans 20 countries in Northeast Africa, the Middle East and Central and South Asia. They will be deployed for nine months.

They will work in support of Operations Spartan Shield and Inherent Resolve, replacing the 75th Field Artillery Brigade based in Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

“A big part (of the mission) is to build our partnerships that we’ve already established in the Middle East over these many years that there’s been a military presence,” said Capt. Patrick Montandon, public affairs officer for the 130th Field Artillery Brigade. “We want to make sure we understand the culture, understand their customs, the courtesies, the language to a small degree, to where we can really let them know that we’re there to help them build security, help them have some strong sovereignty in their nation and to deter future major attacks from enemy terrorist organizations.”

At their training at Fort Bliss, as well as at the regional training center in Salina, Montandon said soldiers have been focusing on handling a range of individual and crew-served firearms, leadership development, combat life-saving skills and basic soldier skills.

This is the brigade’s first deployment since the pandemic started. While initially they conducted virtual training, Montandon said the brigade has been able to adapt well to the challenges of this year, including emphasizing mask wearing, increasing hand hygiene, performing daily temperature checks and reducing the number of people in the barracks. The unit quarantined for two weeks upon arriving in Texas. Montandon said the unit has not recorded any cases.

“We’ve had to be really flexible leading up to this deployment, and it’s really quite a miracle that we’ve still been able to continue with our mission out here, despite those obstacles,” he said. “… I’m really glad we’ve been safe because it just takes one to get that positive result and it would drastically affect our ability to move forward.”

Montandon said command leaders have tried to ensure that both new and experienced soldiers feel comfortable and ready before the overseas deployment. He said they have been emphasizing communication and that everyone comes back as a more developed military professional, as well as a human being.

“Our mission is an important one,” he said. “People know that there is a plan to draw down troops in general in the Middle East, but that being said, we don’t want to lose any ground in the partnerships that we’ve built there. These people have been in war-torn countries for many, many years, and decades even, so our presence there, perhaps more than anything, helps maintain those relations and helps us show our commitment to establish that longtime security and sovereignty that we’re hoping for. … We truly do value these partnerships and this ability to help our ally nations.”

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(c) 2020 The Manhattan Mercury

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