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Send-off marks start of yearlong deployment for North Dakota National Guard soldiers

The 191st Military Police Company's destination in southwest Asia is the U.S. Central Command area of operations and includes countries in the Middle East.

A woman grips the arm of a uniformed soldier sitting next to her in a crowded venue.
Soldiers sit with their loved ones as speakers address the 191st Military Police Company ahead of their deployment Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022.
Chris Flynn / The Forum
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FARGO — A send-off ceremony for about 156 North Dakota Army National Guard soldiers to be deployed to southwest Asia was held Wednesday, Sept. 14, at the Fargo Civic Center. The soldiers will participate in the U.S. Central Command’s Operation Spartan Shield.

Based in Fargo, the 191st Military Police Company is being sent to strengthen defense relationships and build partnerships locally, according to the Operation Spartan Shield website . They will be responsible for support operations with aviation, logistics and information management and will participate in joint exercises and humanitarian assistance.

A uniformed soldier stands and holds a toddler in his arms amid a seated crowd.
North Dakota Army National Guard soldiers and their families crowd the floor of the Fargo Civic Center auditorium Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022, ahead of their deployment to southwestern Asia.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

The send-off ceremony Wednesday attracted more than 1,000 people, and Gov. Doug Burgum, North Dakota National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Al Dohrmann and others addressed the soldiers and their families.

The company will be led by Capt. Nathan Johnson and 1st Sgt. Jeremy Gowan. The soldiers come from more than 35 communities across North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota and are headquartered in Fargo with a detachment in Grand Forks.

The 191st Military Police Company was first called to service in 1969 when the company was called to settle unrest in Zap, North Dakota.

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About 180 soldiers from the unit served in Iraq from 2008 to 2009, and about 30 soldiers were deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for nine months in 2012. The company was also deployed to the Standing Rock area in 2016 during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.

In January 2021, about 60 soldiers from the unit served with the 816th Military Police Company in support of the 59th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C.

A soldier bows his head in prayer.
Attendees bow their heads in prayer at a sendoff for the 191st Military Police Company at the Fargo Civic Center that attracted about 1,000 people on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

Burgum, commander in chief of the North Dakota National Guard, said the North Dakota National Guard is “the best National Guard unit in the country, and we don’t just say that as a phrase, we say it because it’s true.”

Calling the 191st the “pride of North Dakota,” Burgum said about 20% of the state’s 4,000 National Guard soldiers have been deployed in recent years, both abroad and domestically.

Burgum spoke at length about the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy, thanking the company for their service during that time.

“We know this is an important mission at a time when the world is increasingly unstable,” he said, adding that North Dakota plans on playing a vital role in providing energy to the nation’s allies in Western Europe.

Burgum has a goal of making North Dakota the most military-friendly state in the nation. “You know that we stand behind you,” he said. “And to the family members that are here, know that you have our respect and you have our support."

People fill seats on the auditorium floor and along the lower half of the risers.
About 1,000 people gather for a send-off ceremony at the Fargo Civic Center on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022, for the 191st Military Police Company.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

A recorded message from Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., was played to the audience. “The North Dakota National Guard represents the very best of our country,” Hoeven said.

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Dohrmann reiterated that the “191 MP’s” mission was important. He called them battle buddies from the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy. He also said families were the “unsung heroes of the military," giving special recognition to children, spouses and even employers of those who were being deployed.

“Leaders all the way down to the lowest ranking person, I know all of you are ready,” Dohrmann said. “Sometimes, you might not think you’re ready. You wouldn’t be in the position you are in if you were not ready. For everyone in deployment, this can be a time for growth.

A uniformed soldier sits with his arms around a child while another kid sits next to him.
A soldier sits with children during a send-off ceremony for 191st Military Police Company at the Fargo Civic Center on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022. The 191st will be deploying in support of Operation Spartan Shield.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

“Soldiers, use this opportunity to get better as a soldier and as a person, better as a husband, wife, mother or father. Soldiers, show your families gratitude. The spouses and families left behind have a much tougher job,” he said.

Before state and American flags were presented, Capt. Nathan Johnson told the soldiers that the one-year deployment won’t be easy, but the countdown to their return “starts tomorrow.”

Among the soldiers being sent abroad are firefighters, nurses, police officers, housekeepers, construction workers, postal workers, psychologists, groundskeepers and many others, Johnson said.

“With your service, you’re carrying on the tradition of a long line of men and women … protecting the freedoms of these United States,” Burgum said.

091422.N.FF.SENDOFF.06
Gov. Doug Burgum, North Dakota Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Al Dohrmann, and others addressing the 191st Military Police Company and family and friends at the Fargo Civic Center on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

C.S. Hagen is an award-winning journalist currently covering the education and activist beats mainly in North Dakota and Minnesota.
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