MN National Guard families prepare to send loved ones overseas

MN National Guard families prepare to send loved ones overseas

MN National Guard families prepare to send loved ones overseas

More than 550 soldiers of the Minnesota National Guard’s 34th Infantry Division “Red Bulls” Headquarters will begin a ten-month-long deployment to the Middle East in early February of 2024. 

The Red Bulls will arrive in Kuwait and provide leadership, command, and planning for future exercises for Operation Spartan Shield and Operation Inherent Resolve. They will build partner nations’ military capacity across the Middle East, promoting regional self-reliance and increased security. The Red Bulls will be responsible for operations across seven countries. 

“I’m very eager to leave and then come back and just have that overwhelming feeling of seeing your family after being gone for almost a year,” said Michelle Lazo, a six-year national guardsman, who will be deploying for the first time. 

While soldiers prepare for their exciting journey, loved ones are bracing for it.

“Excited for her new chapter, but anxious, worried because it’s a lot of unknowns,” said Lazo’s mom, Vanessa Morales.

Inside Hilton Minneapolis, hundreds of families like Morales prepared to send off their loved ones by learning about numerous resources and classes families can take. Some classes include financial planning, emotional grit, and learning how to communicate to one another. 

“She’s the first military in our family, both of ours so, you know, we’re proud of her for what she’s doing. It takes a lot of courage. And it takes a lot of dedication and she’s, she’s willing to do it so we’re here to support her,” said Morales. 

The deploying soldiers come from more than 200 communities throughout Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, North and South Dakoata, and several other states. They are expected to return home from the deployment in December 2024. 

The 34th Infantry Division’s most recent deployments include Kuwait from 2018-2019 in support of Operation Spartan Shield and Iraq from 2009-2010, leading the Multi-national Division-South in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.