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Home : News : Overseas Operations
NEWS | June 5, 2024

Alaska Guard Soldiers Honored Before Middle East Deployment

By Balinda ONeal, 134th Public Affairs Detachment

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - Alaska Army National Guardsmen assigned to the 49th Personnel Detachment, known as the 49th Theater Gateway, were honored during a deployment ceremony at the Camp Carroll flagpole on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson June 1.

Nine Soldiers will embark on a nine-month rotation to Kuwait to support Operation Spartan Shield.

During the ceremony, Col. Michele Edwards, commander of the 297th Regional Support Group, addressed the Soldiers directly and affirmed their readiness for the mission and the challenges it may present.

“This small but mighty group of nine Soldiers will contribute to the Army’s mission — to deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars,” said Edwards. She emphasized that their efforts enhance force protection, enabling the U.S. Central Command combatant commander to respond effectively to regional and global needs.

The unit will conduct personnel accountability for service members traveling within the CENTCOM area of responsibility. This mission is critical to ensure the efficient and secure movement of military personnel throughout the region.

“Basically, what a theater gateway does is we help move people who just got off the plane,” said Maj. Alex McMahan, commander of the 49th TG. “Not everyone is going to end up in Kuwait. They need to go out into CENTCOM and perform their mission. So, our job is to track them and to help them move to their next destination.”

The ceremony offered a time for families, friends and fellow service members to bid farewell to the Soldiers ahead of their mobilization to Fort Cavazos, Texas, over the next few weeks before continuing to the Middle East.

“Thank you all for your dedication, selfless service and commitment to our nation,” said Edwards. “You are outstanding individual Soldiers, but together, your strength is found through unity.”

McMahan expressed gratitude for the sacrifices made by his Soldiers, acknowledging the commitment to leave their civilian lives and families for a nine-month deployment. He said their service was meaningful to him and crucial for the organization and the nation.

Operation Spartan Shield is key to CENTCOM’s efforts to strengthen defense relationships and promote stability in the Middle East.

McMahan said the Alaska National Guard’s participation in this rotation is an opportunity to demonstrate proficiency in theater gateway operations. There are only nine such units in the entire Army, encompassing both reserve and active components.

The 49th Theater Gateway Personnel Accountability Team was established in September 2002 as the 480th Ordnance Detachment in Phoenix, Arizona. In September 2009, it was re-flagged and assigned to the AKARNG at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson as the 49th Personnel Detachment. The unit previously deployed to Kuwait for Operation Spartan Shield in 2017.