More than 100 members of the Arkansas National Guard will deploy today for an eventual nine-month mission in Southwest Asia.
Guardsmen from the 1-153 Infantry Battalion of the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, based out of Camden, will deploy to their mobilization station at Fort Bliss in Texas before moving on to a support mission as part of Operation Spartan Shield.
The goal of Operation Spartan Shield is to build partner capacity in the Middle East and promote regional self-reliance and increase security among partner nations.
Kevin Cox, deputy chief of staff for operations for the Arkansas National Guard, explained the nature of the unit's deployment Tuesday at an "All Services Roll Call" event at the Searcy armory.
"Ninety days ago, we got a call nationally that said, 'Hey, we need a quick reaction force of a company to go into [Southwest Asia], just to be ready to go do something somewhere in Central Command if the need ever arose, and we need it in 90 days,'" Cox said. "So with our state's work, we put those people together, trained them at Fort Chaffee and deploy [them today]. Will be going off to Fort Bliss and then onward for their missions [as a] quick reaction force."
Maj. Gen. Jon Stubbs, Arkansas' adjutant general, said in a news release that the Camden National Guard members "are facing a challenging mission."
"But it's nothing they're not capable of executing safely and effectively," Stubbs said. "We've trained them up well. They're well led, and that part of the world will be a safer place with them there for their mission. Here at home, we're going to take care of their families so they can focus on their mission. They know how to reach us through our App, via phone or e-mail. I encourage the families to reach out to us if they're experiencing an issue with any of their benefits. We have a robust team in place to directly help them, or point them to the resources who can help."
This isn't the first Arkansas National Guard deployment this year as part of Operation Spartan Shield.
In February, 450 guardsmen deployed as part of the mission.
That group consisted of soldiers from from A Company in Walnut Ridge and Harrison, B Company from Batesville and Augusta, C Company from West Memphis and Headquarters and Headquarters Co. from Searcy.
Those companies are part of supporting units of the 2-153 Infantry Battalion, 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
In April, more than 160 Arkansans were deployed to Grafenwoehr, Germany, where they are helping to train Ukranian soldiers.