Deployment ceremony held for Minnesota National Guard soldiers headed to Kuwait

Minnesota National Guard sendoff ceremony

Minnesota National Guard sendoff ceremony

Hundreds of soldiers from the Minnesota National Guard are on their way to the Middle East.

An emotional deployment ceremony was held Thursday morning at Grace Church in Eden Prairie for the 34th Infantry Division “Red Bulls,” comprised of soldiers from 13 states, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North and South Dakota.

A total of 550 soldiers will be in Kuwait for 10 months after a month of training at Fort Cavazos, Texas. For nearly half of them, this will be their first deployment, while another 28% will be on their second, 16% their third and 10% on a fourth deployment.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz also attended the ceremony to show his support for the soldiers, who say the deployment has been a planned mission that has been on their radar for several years.

Among those being deployed is Rosemount junior varsity hockey head coach Rik Chittajallu, who, as 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reported last month, was given a sendoff between games at Rosemount Arena.

According to the Minnesota National Guard, their mission will be to provide leadership, command and planning for future exercises for Operation Spartan Shield and Operation Inherent Resolve and will also create partner nations’ military capacity across the Middle East.

In December, 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reported how soldiers’ families were preparing for the sendoff, which included resources and classes such as financial planning, communication methods and more.

RELATED: Home for the holidays: National Guard unit returns to Minnesota

RELATED: MN National Guard has success amid US Army’s sweeping recruitment overhaul announcement