25 Minnesota National Guard soldiers headed to the Middle East
By DEANNA WENIGER | (St. Paul, Minn.) Pioneer Press | Published: January 20, 2019
ST. PAUL, Minn. (Tribune News Service) — Twenty-five members of a Minnesota National Guard unit based in Arden Hills gathered with family and friends Saturday before deploying to the Middle East for nine months.
This will be the first deployment for 22 of the soldiers, who range in age from 19 to 52. They will provide support for Operation Spartan Shield in Kuwait and Jordan.
The group is part of the 247th Financial Management Support Detachment, which will do check cashing, military pay support, contractor payments and ensuring the accountability of U.S. funds for servicemembers, government civilians, Defense Department contractors and others who are deployed overseas.
Capt. Benjamin Johnson, who will be leading the team, joked that soldiers only need two things: food and a paycheck. They’d make sure they got the latter.
Of the 25, there are 14 men and 11 women. They represent several communities throughout Minnesota, from the Twin Cities to Brainerd to Mankato.
The team will spend three weeks at Fort Hood, Texas, to train and to acclimate to the heat.
“The weather where we’re going can get up to 125 and 130 degrees,” Johnson said. “Coming from 2 below (zero) today, so that will be an adjustment.”
Zou Xiong, 19, is the youngest soldier shipping out and the first in her family to serve in the military. Her grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Thailand. She was joined by her two sisters and two brothers at the ceremony.
“I am excited, but at the same time, I’ll be missing home,” she said.
Johnson knows what that’s like. This is his second deployment.
“As a parent and a soldier, I understand that being away from family and loved ones for this length of time is no easy feat,” he said. “I also understand that a deployment is a time to step out of our comfort zones. It is a time of growth and, more importantly, a time to put our years of training to use in service to country. The soldiers of the 247th have spent almost a year preparing for this mission. They’re competent, they’re confident and they’re prepared to successfully execute our mission.”
Six of the soldiers have at least one dependent family member.
Minnesota lawmakers U.S. Reps. Betty McCollum and Peter Stauber, along with a representative from Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s office, wished the 247th well and told their families they would stand by them.