MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota National Guard is stepping up to help the fight against Ebola.
About 700 men and women with the Rosemount-based 34th Red Bull Infantry Division will be headed to West Africa in the spring.
They are part of more than 2,000 Army National Guard and Army Reserve forces who will help areas hardest hit by the virus. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel authorized the deployment on Friday.
Col. Mike Wickman with the Minnesota National Guard said he expects a six-month deployment for the 34th Infantry Division.
“This humanitarian mission is not that unusual,” said Wickman, discussing the battle against the contagious and deadly disease. “You have forces that are proven and capable, and … they are fully prepared.”
He said the troops will go through medical training, but they won’t be directly dealing with Ebola patients.
“Our mission is to execute command and control of the various Department of Defense entities that are going to be in that area,” Wickman said. “So the risk is not as great as one would expect.”
Once the mission is complete, they will undergo 21 days of monitoring. They’ll meet with a nurse twice a day and their temperatures will also be taken to make sure they didn’t contract the virus.
This is the second time in the recent past that the 34th Infantry Division has been mobilized. Previously, the Red Bulls were deployed to Iraq to help support Operation New Dawn.
Maj. Darrin Janisch is leaving behind his family in Savage to go on his fourth deployment with the Minnesota National Guard.
“This is very different because it is a humanitarian assistance mission, very different than having boots on the ground and being in combat,” Janisch said.
Ann Janisch said she has become better able to handle the time her husband leaves over the years but it is still very difficult to juggle the responsibilities of having three children.
“We haven’t quite wrapped our heads around it,” she said.
She added sometimes people do not know what to say but kind gestures like helping to mow the lawn or helping with carpool mean a lot to military families with loved ones overseas.