Local Guard units placed on alert

Published 11:00 am Friday, May 21, 2010

About 2,700 Minnesota National Guard soldiers have been alerted to prepare for deployment to Iraq and Kuwait next year, which means Albert Lea and Austin troops will be ready, too.

The Bloomington-based 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division of the Minnesota Army National Guard, will help provide security to other forces when they head overseas next summer. The deployment is part of Operation New Dawn, which is the name of the U.S. drawdown phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, consists of 37 units from 42 Minnesota communities. Albert Lea and Austin are among them. The 34th Infantry is known as the Red Bulls.

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Austin Sgt. 1st Class Scott Wermager said he doesn’t know how many, if any, Austin soldiers will be called when the final list of deploying units is determined and announced early next year.

“It’s been something we’ve been expecting,” Wermager said of the alert. “We’re just training up.”

Lt. Col. Kevin Olson, spokesman for the Minnesota National Guard, said it is unknown how Albert Lea soldiers will be affected as well.

Olson said the brigade has been alerted to prepare for deployment, but exactly who and what units will go is still to be determined.

“We simply don’t know at this point,” he said.

In July 2007, the units in Albert Lea and Austin were deployed to Kosovo, returning a year later. Many soldiers also served in Iraq from June 2004 to November 2005.

— Sarah Stultz contributed to this report.