Local soldiers about to deploy

Published 10:32 am Friday, October 11, 2013

More than 140 soldiers from the Minnesota National Guard’s 114th Transportation Company in Chisholm, including several Austin and Mower County natives, are preparing to deploy to Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Patrick Nelson

Staff Sgt. Patrick Nelson

Of the 140 Minnesota soldiers, there are three from Austin and one from Elkton, according to the National Guard. The Guard didn’t release the names of all local soldiers, but Austin native and 1979 Austin High School graduate Patrick Nelson is one of them. For Staff Sgt. Nelson, and his local comrades, it’s familiar territory.

Nelson deployed with the Company to Afghanistan through 2009 and 2010. As always, it will be tough leaving family and friends behind for a year.

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“It’s always hard leaving your family and loved ones,” Nelson said.

However, Nelson is close with his fellow Austin and Elkton soldiers, along with the entire company. That helps.

“Being the close unit like we are, it’s always nice to know we’ve got friends within the unit, as well,” he said.

As part of Operation Enduring Freedom, the unit will escort equipment and supplies to sustain the war and help with the eventual draw-down in Afghanistan, according to Army Capt. Ryan R. Koester of 114th Transportation Company. Koester said the unit is returning to Afghanistan three and a half years after a support mission from 2009 to 2010. Nelson and many of the soldiers were part of that deployment. With that, the soldiers have a bond, which also helps. They have trust in each other.

“They all have previous combat experience, and that’s always helpful,” Nelson said.

While people in Austin and the area will inevitably worry about their soldiers on the other side of the globe for the next year, Nelson wants to offer a little solace.

“We’ve been training and working on this the last year or so,” he said. “We’ll all be just fine.”

The soldiers will head to Fort Hood, Texas, on Oct. 13 for pre-deployment training and arrive in Afghanistan this winter. They are tentatively expected to return in fall 2014. It’s the first deployment for 78 of the soldiers.

“I am fortunate after 12 years of war and multiple deployments, to have a company of soldiers that are motivated to answer the call and perform their mission,” Koester said in the release. “The 114th Transportation Company has successfully completed its pre-mobilization training with the collaboration of the 347th Regional Support Group, 34th Red Bull Infantry Division and the Joint Force Headquarters. With the support of our families and programs like Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, we are confident that we will receive the moral support and encouragement we need to stay focused and be able to complete our mission overseas.”

There’s no word of a local send-off yet but the unit will have a departure ceremony at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12 at Chisholm High School, 301 Fourth St. SW, Chisholm, Minn.

Follow the departure ceremony at www.facebook.com/MinnesotaNationalGuard or Twitter @MNNationalGuard. For more information on the Minnesota National Guard, visit www.MinnesotaNationalGuard.org.