(Tribune News Service) — Preparing for a yearlong deployment to the U.S.-Mexico border, Spc. Nathan Rowell isn't worrying too much about what awaits him 2,500 miles away.

His thoughts remain focused a little closer to home — Barnstead, N.H., to be exact, and his wife Arianna and daughter Stella, 1.

"I'm just trying to make sure everything is ready to get them through winter," Rowell said.

Spc. Rowell is among 164 New Hampshire National Guard soldiers from the 941st Military Police Battalion Headquarters being deployed to the southern border for the next year.

Approximately 44 soldiers provide command and control over four subordinate units' companies from New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Illinois and Kentucky consisting of about 500 soldiers in all. Their sector covers about 250 miles of the border extending to the Gulf of Mexico. This is the unit's first deployment.

Another 120 soldiers from the 237th Military Police Company are being deployed to surveillance sites along the border to help stem the flow of people and illegal drugs, weapons and money. The unit last deployed to Afghanistan in 2012-2013.

Both units supported New Hampshire's COVID-19 response efforts, were activated for civil disturbance responses and supported hospitals during the surge.

During a deployment ceremony Monday at the National Guard Army Regional Training Institute in Pembroke, Gov. Chris Sununu thanked members of both deploying units for answering the nation's call to assist with the "ongoing humanitarian crisis along our southern border."

"When the order for deployment came in, nothing personal to the men and women in uniform, you aren't the first people I thought of," said Sununu. "My first thought was your families. Deployments are hard on families, and that's where the biggest sacrifice really comes."

Sununu said this deployment is in response to a federal mobilization order from the U.S. Department of Defense.

"The humanitarian crisis at the southern border affects New Hampshire and all 50 states, and the state will always step up to assist in these efforts," said Sununu. "Our guardsmen and women will always answer the call and we are grateful for their efforts."

Lt. Col. Mark Patterson of Weare, commander of the 941st Military Police Battalion, said he's ready to head out on what will be his fifth deployment. He said leaving never gets any easier, for him or his family.

"This is unique, because we don't usually deploy inside our own border," said Patterson "The family part is always tough. It doesn't matter where you're at — if you're gone for a year, you're gone for a year. I will say having modern technology like FaceTime is good, and they're patriotic people so they get it. In this type of an environment it's good to have support."

Sununu acknowledged this deployment assignment is a bit unique.

"It's about the trafficking of people, it's about drugs, and it's about weapons — all of which have a direct impact right here in New Hampshire," said Sununu.

Forty-five soldiers from the 3643rd Brigade Support Battalion were deployed from October 2020 through November 2021 in support of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's mission along the Southwest border. While deployed, they assisted in 207,320 apprehensions, $893 million in illegal drug seizures and helped save 20 migrant lives.

As the ceremony broke up and troops and loved ones shared a few moments together, Arianna Rowell watched her husband hug their daughter Stella tight.

"It's hard, it's scary" she said. "It's his first one."

(c)2022 The New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.)

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(New Hampshire National Guard)

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