Nearly 700 soldiers from the Minnesota National Guard’s Mankato-based 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry will deploy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in the Horn of Africa.
“Our battalion will serve as part of a Task Force to improve security posture at U.S. installations and forward operating bases in the AFRICOM region while maintaining a rapidly deployable force prepared to respond to crisis,” said Commander Lt. Col. Charles Rankin.
COVID-19 provided some challenges in final preparations for deployment. Rankin said the welfare of his soldiers, their families, and their employers were at the center of every decision he made. The unit conducted final Soldier Readiness Processing in April utilizing social distancing measures like wearing masks and staggering soldiers testing. They will report to Camp Ripley the first week of June, train, and depart for Fort Bliss, Texas at the end of the month. “Our soldiers are ready to deploy, well-trained, fully-equipped, and highly-motivated,” said Rankin.
Soldiers in the battalion come from nearly 200 communities around Minnesota, and age range from 18 to 52. For 76 soldiers this will be their second deployment, and for 52 soldiers it will be their third or fourth. More than one hundred soldiers are in the process of earning a degree or have an associate degree, while three have an advanced degree. More than 120 soldiers have at least one dependent family member.
There are six major units in the 2-135 Infantry: Headquarters Company in Mankato and Owatonna, A Company in West St. Paul, B Company in Rochester, C Company in Winona, D Company in Albert Lea and 1135th Combat Support Company in Faribault. 2-135 Infantry will be joined by C Company 113th Cavalry Regiment in LeMars, Iowa, and C Company 106th Cavalry Regiment in Aurora, Illinois.
In lieu of deployment ceremonies at all unit Armories due to social distancing requirements, the battalion will have a private departure ceremony at Camp Ripley on June 19.