MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — About 150 Minnesota National Guard soldiers, based in Hastings and Red Wing, are reporting for duty once again. This time overseas in Kuwait to provide Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) defense, and will respond to any chemical hazards or weapons of mass destruction threats.

On Saturday, at the Hastings National Guard Armory, the soldiers gathered for a send-off ceremony, with their families watching on virtually.

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This send-off is just the beginning of another taxing assignment for these Minnesota National Guard soldiers who have spent the last year helping Minnesotans get through the pandemic and civil unrest.

“I was never expected to activated for COVID, as a chemical soldier, I never thought I’d be placed in that position,” said Sgt. 1st Class Earl Rawls, who is leaving his wife and two teenagers behind to deploy.

This assignment comes after a year being away from his family responding to the pandemic.

“I went around Minnesota working on vaccine sites down in Inver Grove Heights, I worked on that for a good 6 months almost,” said Rawls.

Also deploying to Kuwait is 1st Lt. Dustin Workman.

“I’ve been called back to duty more times this year, and spent more time in the National Guard, than I have in my 11 years in the Army,” said Workman.

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Before this deployment, Workman responded to the civil unrest last summer, protecting the State Capitol in St. Paul.

“It’s been a lot for a lot of soldiers,” said Workman.

Not only are these assignments physically demanding, but also emotionally sacrificing.

“It’s one those things where you know you’re serving your country, but you’re also skipping a year of your daughter’s life and spouse’s life that you’ll never get back,” said Workman.

Somehow this group of men and women have found the strength and persistence, after a difficult year, to continue to answer the call.

“I think the biggest lesson I learned is you can’t do it all by yourself,” said Rawls.

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The group will officially deploy the first week in June and they will be overseas for about one year.

Marielle Mohs