Minnesota Guardsmen continue to prepare for deployment amid COVID-19 restrictions

Soldiers with the Minnesota National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry Regiment prepare for an upcoming deployment during a Soldier Readiness Process (SRP) event April 24, 2020 at the Cottage Grove Armory. About 700 Soldiers are expected to deploy to the Horn of Africa this summer in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. They will serve as part of a Task Force to improve security posture at U.S. installations and forward operating bases in the region, while maintaining a rapidly deployable force prepared to respond to crisis. The 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry, is a Minnesota National Guard battalion headquartered in Mankato. The 2-135 provides the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division with a trained and ready combat force.

April 28, 2020 (MANKATO, Minnesota) — Approximately 700 Soldiers from the Minnesota National Guard’s Mankato-based 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry are training and preparing for deployment to the Horn of Africa later this summer.

“The health and well-being of each of our soldiers and their families is very important,” said Lt. Col. Chip Rankin, commander of the 2-135 Infantry. “Every mitigation measure that is feasible will be applied to ensure the safety of our soldiers while they complete the tasks required for this mobilization.”

The deployment, which is part of a normally-scheduled rotation, has currently not been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, the Minnesota National Guard continues to ensure its soldiers are trained and ready for the mission ahead.

Part of that preparation involves evaluating soldiers’ medical and dental status to ensure they are eligible to deploy. Last week, more than 400 people from the battalion were screened over a five-day period at two separate locations.

The screening was modified to adhere to Centers for Disease Control recommendations for social distancing. The unit identified only select personnel who need to be cleared for medical or dental deficiencies. Those personnel reported to Camp Ripley or Cottage Grove where they underwent COVID-19 screenings prior to meeting with medical and dental providers to assess their medical readiness.

The soldiers from the battalion will continue to complete administrative tasks and training remotely and will come together in June for additional training at Camp Ripley prior to deployment later this summer.

While the COVID-19 pandemic presents challenges and uncertainties, the Minnesota National Guard continues to ensure that soldiers are prepared to support missions that are critical to the nation’s defense and security.

“We must not trade fear from COVID-19 for the dangers of being unprepared at meeting the challenges and risks that lie ahead in Africa,” said Rankin.

Story by Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens