GRAND FORKS, N.D. — More than 1,000 family members, friends and supporters of the North Dakota Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 188th Air Defense Artillery Regiment filled the Alerus Center in Grand Forks today. They were there to send off about 200 soldiers with the unit who will be helping to protect the nation’s capital for the next year.
“The North Dakota National Guard and the 1-188th have been an integral force in support of the global war on terrorism, and this mission to protect our nation’s capital will demonstrate yet again why our Guard is the best in the nation,” said Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who attended today’s ceremony. “We are grateful to them and their families for their outstanding service and selfless sacrifice, and our thoughts and prayers will be with them throughout this yearlong deployment and when they return home.”
The North Dakota Guardsmen will be supporting Operation Noble Eagle as they collaborate with other Department of Defense agencies as part of the integrated air defense system designed to protect the airspace around the National Capital Region. It’s the 10th deployment since 2004 that calls upon Guardsmen from the battalion. Despite that, this will be the first deployment for about half of the soldiers honored today.
“This will be a unique mission for the North Dakota National Guard in that it’s rare to deploy such a large group on a yearlong mission inside of our country’s borders,” said Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota adjutant general. “Judging from past missions and the recent training and tests that the unit has completed, it’s clear that this will again be a successful deployment that contributes to the safety and security of our nation.”
Lt. Col. Jon Erickson, of Bismarck, N.D., commands the unit and Sgt. Maj. Wallace Keller, of Bismarck, serves as the senior enlisted leader. Together, they have nearly 55 years of military experience. Both spoke at today’s ceremony as did Sen. John Hoeven, Rep. Kevin Cramer, and Command Sgt. Maj. Harley Schwind, North Dakota Army National Guard state command sergeant major.
The 1-188th is headquartered in Grand Forks with units in Bismarck and Fargo. The deploying soldiers call 27 different North Dakota communities home, as well as 12 cities in neighboring states. Additionally, the deploying group includes a number of family members who will be serving together, including three married couples and four pairs of siblings.