Thanks & goodbyes: Troops leave Austin

Published 11:12 am Friday, August 19, 2011

Troops with the 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry Regiment begin stowing their gear as they prepared to deploy from the National Guard Armory in Austin Thursday. -- Eric Johnson/

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The last two deploying units of the Minnesota National Guard are officially gone, and they won’t be home for one year.

Thursday morning, hundreds of residents from communities all over the state flooded the Austin Armory to say goodbye to 159 soldiers. Those soldiers were the final wave of National Guard deployments in the state’s second largest deployment since World War II — 2,400 total soldiers. Initial units began sending off in late-May and arriving in Kuwait in late July, where they are assisting with Operation New Dawn, the removal of U.S. military troops in Iraq.

Specialist E4 Brianna Buchan, of Austin, kisses her 14-month-old daughter Jaylynn Huinker before shipping out Thursday for Camp Ripley with the 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry Regiment.

The final group left Austin at noon with a motorcade of fire trucks, motorcycles and police cars, but not before the community showed its support.

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“I just need two words,” Mayor Tom Stiehm said to soldiers at the sendoff ceremony. “Thank you.”

From 8 a.m. to noon, family members enjoyed the final hours with the soldiers over food, games and lots of conversation. For some, especially mothers, the reality finally hit home.

“I’m so very very proud of him, but selfishly as a mom, I don’t want him to go,” said Sharon Teigen of Austin, mother of Spc. Trevor Kolb.

The deployment is Kolb’s first tour of active duty, and Teigen was somewhat nervous. However, Teigen’s fiancé, an ex-Marine, has been offering support.

“He’s been keeping me pretty grounded,” she said.

Furthermore, Teigen and many others have received ongoing support from Beyond the Yellow Ribbon and the Family Readiness Group.

Both organizations offer help for military families and were on hand for last-minute needs Thursday morning.

On Monday, Kolb said he wasn’t worried about being deployed, and one hour before leaving, he was still calm and collected.

1Lt. Dustin McCormick gives his four-month-old daughter Jillian McCormick, held by his mother Vicky Ackerman, her pacificer before a deployment ceremony for the 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry Regiment Thursday.

“No,” he said nonchalantly about reality hitting him at the last minute. “I’m still ready to go.”

After the troops departed, they were treated to something unique. Austin Fire Chief Mickey Healey coordinated efforts with 12 more fire departments along the way to Camp Ripley, Minn. Each department met the Guard men and women and escorted them through their cities.

“For the dedication our troops and families give to us, it’s a little bit of an honor for us to give them a special sendoff,” he said.

After meeting at Camp Ripley, the troops will train in Mississippi before arriving in Kuwait sometime this fall.