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Dickinson-based National Guard unit no longer on alert for deployment: Mission to Afghanistan in 2015 cancelled

A Dickinson-based North Dakota National Guard unit will no longer be sent to Afghanistan.

The 816th Engineer Company had been alerted to potential mobilization in June, but 150 members slated to go to Afghanistan were told this week by the Department of the Army that they are no longer scheduled to serve overseas early next year.

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North Dakota’s adjutant general, Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, said in a statement released Wednesday that although the Army canceled the mission when the company’s capabilities were no longer needed, he is still “proud of all the hard work and effort” the soldiers did in preparing for deployment.

With many colleges and universities now into their second and third weeks, it is “an unfortunate time of the year to receive this cancellation,” said Sgt. Jennifer Joyce, public affairs specialist for the North Dakota National Guard.

“The school year just started, some had plans to enroll in college,” she said. “That’s the major issue. For those that were attending college, they weren’t able to enroll, or missed enrollment.”

Soldiers who had been scheduled for deployment next year received resources for dealing with the unexpected cancellation, the National Guard said in the statement, including information about health care eligibility, delayed college enrollment options and available assistance from the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.

Joyce said the Guard will work with soldiers one-on-one to make up for annual training they missed while they were preparing for deployment.

It isn’t the first time a North Dakota National Guard unit has been removed from alert status: The Jamestown-based 817th Engineer Company scheduled for deployment to Afghanistan in 2013 was also taken off of alert status. Carrington’s 835th and 897th Engineer Teams were taken off of alert in 2011 ahead of a scheduled deployment to Afghanistan. The Bismarck-based 814th Medical Company was also set to deploy in 2006 and removed from alert status, but was called for active-duty service in Afghanistan earlier this year.

Decisions about deployment and alert status are made by the Army, and not within the National Guard. Notification of potential mobilization is given out about 8 to 12 months ahead of time, but situations could change as the scheduled deployment nears.

“It’s kind of unusual, but not highly unusual, that somebody gets pulled off,” said National Guard spokesman Bill Prokopyk. “The army continually assesses its need for units.”

Along with 30 soldiers from the 814th Medical Company serving in Afghanistan, about 40 other North Dakota National Guard members from the Bismarck-based Company C, Second Battalion, 285th Aviation Regiment are serving a year-long peacekeeping mission in Kosovo that is expected to wrap up next month.

Another 15 airmen from the Minot-based 219th Security Forces Squadron have been serving in Southwest Asia since March in support of the U.S. Central Command.

Faulx is a reporter for The Dickinson Press. Contact her at 701-456-1207. Tweet her at NadyaFaulx.