More than 500 National Guard soldiers will start training for a yearlong deployment to southwest Asia starting fall 2018 following a preliminary announcement Monday, Aug. 14.
Among the soldiers are 14 from Rosemount, 12 from Farmington, nine from Woodbury and two from Red Wing.
Lt. Col. Jess Ulrick, a Farmington resident who commands the Rosemount-based 34th Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, broke the news to soldiers assigned there Sunday, Aug. 13.
Ulrick said most of the men and women in his battalion understand that military service comes with duties that can include overseas deployment, and "this was just another one of them."
The average age of soldiers in Ulrick's battalion is about 34, but ages range from 18 to 58. About half of them served on prior deployments.
The announcement marks the notice of sourcing, the earliest notification National Guard units receive when they are selected for future deployment.
An alert order will come at a later date, at which point soldiers to notify their employers of schools if the deployment requirements still stands.
A final mobilization order offers deployment dates and instructs soldiers to make final arrangements with their families before active duty starts.
"The Red Bulls maintain a high level of readiness, and over the next 12 months, our soldiers will train for this mission while also preparing their families and civilian employers here at home," Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen, 34th Infantry Division commanding general said in a statement. "The official notification is an important step in the process of building readiness for an overseas deployment."
Each member of the battalion will undergo Division Warfighter training at Camp Atterbury in Indiana next June, which tests the abilities of the commander and staff to respond to complex challenges in a simulated battlefield scenario.
But Ulrick said the announcement signals preparation for battalion members' families as well.
"Everyone's experiences are different," he said. "It can be as easy as dividing household chores and it can be as hard as deciding who takes care of the kids and keeps the family going when the soldier does deploy."
Community members, Ulrick said, can show their support to families the deployment will affect by volunteering with the Farmington Yellow Ribbon Network, a nonprofit that provides services to military personnel and their families during and after deployment.
Friends, neighbors and colleagues, he said, can also help families affected by "understanding, helping out and being ready to support those who are left behind."
This could mean help around the house or offering to help care for children whose parent has been deployed.
Ulrick encourages the community to "let each family come forward with their own requests" for help.