Maj. Gen. Richard C. Nash, adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard, thanked employers and supporters of the Minnesota National Guard Wednesday for their support of troops and families.
Speaking briefly at a luncheon at the Brainerd National Guard Armory, the head of the state's National Guard said that support will likely be needed again if, as expected, an official announcement deploying Minnesota National Guard troops is made soon. Nash said an announcement is expected in the next few weeks.
The Guard's 1/194th Armor Combined Arms Battalion is among the units put on alert for possible deployment last spring. That possible deployment could affect an unknown number of the approximate 590 Guard members who are headquartered in Brainerd.
Nash lauded the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon project designed to help military families and the volunteer efforts that preceded that program.
"You've got a long, rich tradition of supporting soldiers and families," he told the audience.
He described the potential deployment as one that would likely send Guard members to Kuwait and then Iraq for force protection at bases and convoy security as the U.S. forces wind down their service in Iraq.
Nash said he met with the Brainerd and Baxter mayors, both veterans, and planned to meet with Central Lakes College officials in the afternoon.
As the percentage of women soldiers and airmen has risen the needs of the families left behind have also changed, Nash said. In specific cases, he said when a mother is deployed it might result in new responsibilities for the husband or the guardian of children left behind.
"He knows nothing about running that household," Nash said of a hypothetical situation. "Those are challenges. This is a new phenomenon."
The major general said later that for 73 percent of the soldiers who could potentially be deployed, this would be their first deployment. For other soldiers, the deployment could be their sixth with the National Guard.
"Brainerd knows how to take care of its own," he said.
Nash, who began his new duties Nov. 1, assured his audience that despite any potential deployment the Minnesota National Guard would be prepared to assist in the event of any manmade or natural disaster, such as the anticipated flooding in the Red River Valley.
The Minnesota National Guard's recruiting goals have been met, Nash said, and the quality has been high, with only high school graduates being considered. Despite frequent deployments there is a waiting list for the National Guard. He doesn't believe the educational benefits provided by the Guard are the main motivation.
"People want to serve," Nash said.
Nash's military service began with his enlistment into the infantry in 1972. He has commanded at all levels, most recently completing a deployment as commander United States Division - South supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2010. He is a 1972 graduate of Mankato State University and a 1998 U.S. Army War College by correspondence.
MIKE O'ROURKE may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5860.