EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - Family and friends of more than 550 Red Bull Soldiers gathered Feb. 1 for a departure ceremony honoring the Minnesota National Guard’s 34th Infantry Division “Red Bulls” and their upcoming deployment to the Middle East.
The Red Bulls will spend nearly 10 months away from their homes supporting Operation Spartan Shield. The unit will train in Texas before heading overseas.
The Red Bulls will take over for the California National Guard’s 40th Infantry Division, becoming Task Force Spartan, comprising active Army and National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve units. Through Operation Spartan Shield, Task Force Spartan maintains a U.S. military posture in Southwest Asia, strengthening defense relationships and partner capacity.
“You know that each and every day your warriors walk out the door, it’s a risk,” said Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz. “But what I can assure you is, there is no better trained, better equipped, and better ready unit in the world to take on this mission than the 34th Infantry Division.”
Spanning 216 communities throughout Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Virginia, Colorado, California, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey and Texas, the Red Bull Soldiers will make their way to Fort Cavazos, Texas, for a month of pre-mobilization training. They return home from the Middle East in December.
“Thank you to the families, friends, civilian employers and community members who have come here today to support their Citizen-Soldier,” said Army Maj. Gen. Charles Kemper, the 34th Infantry Division’s commanding general.
The Red Bulls previously deployed in support of Operation Spartan Shield in 2018-19. More than half of the service members deploying this year have previously deployed.
“This mission is well suited for the highly capable Citizen-Soldiers of the 34th Infantry Division. Our ranks contain teachers, engineers, police officers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, mechanics, and dozens of other professions,” said Kemper. “This diverse civilian skill set adds to our capability as an infantry division headquarters.”
Units supporting the Spartan Shield mission provide aviation, logistics, force protection and information management capabilities and facilitate theater security cooperation activities such as key leader engagements, joint exercises, conferences, symposia, humanitarian assistance, and disaster response planning.
Maj. Gen. Johanna Clyborne, the Minnesota National Guard’s assistant adjutant general for Army, offered some advice for the deploying Soldiers.
“Stay connected and make time to engage with your family; communication helps your family know that you are OK,” said Clyborne. “Remain flexible; it is not uncommon to have a change in your primary position. Deployments, they come with missions, but goals add to your personal growth and journey.”