Alaska Army National Guard 1st Sgt. Oliver Meza, Bravo Company first sergeant, brings the formation to attention during a deployment ceremony for B Company, 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment, at the Alaska National Guard Armory on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Sept. 29, 2023. Approximately 100 Soldiers are deploying to the Middle East for nine months to support Operation Spartan Shield. (Alaska National Guard photo by Balinda O’Neal)
Alaska Army National Guard 1st Sgt. Oliver Meza, Bravo Company first sergeant, brings the formation to attention during a deployment ceremony for B Company, 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment, at the Alaska National Guard Armory on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Sept. 29, 2023. Approximately 100 Soldiers are deploying to the Middle East for nine months to support Operation Spartan Shield. (Alaska National Guard photo by Balinda O’Neal) (Photo Credit: Balinda ONeal) VIEW ORIGINAL

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - Approximately 100 Alaska Army National Guardsmen assigned to Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment, are deploying to Kuwait in November as part of Operation Spartan Shield.

Family members, friends and fellow Guardsmen came together at the Alaska National Guard Armory Sept. 29 to pay tribute to the Soldiers of “Bison” Company before the start of their journey.

Lt. Col. Luke Bushatz, 1-297th battalion commander, spoke to the Guard members about safeguarding the fundamental freedoms we cherish.

“You guard liberty because you choose to be a part of something that is bigger than the individual,” said Bushatz. “You willingly choose to submit yourselves to one another, holding yourself accountable for the preservation of rights of men given by God.”

In support of U.S. Central Command, Bison Company’s mission will continue to build partner capacity and increase regional security.

“We will be doing a security forces mission for [High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems],” said Capt. Richard Collins, the Bison Company commander, referencing the rocket systems used and training between the U.S. and Kuwaiti forces to maintain combat readiness and communication between the two forces.

The 1-297th is part of a geographically dispersed brigade headquartered in the Hawaii ARNG. The HAARNG’s 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team has four battalions in Hawaii and a battalion in Alaska, Guam and Arizona.

“I’m extremely excited for the Soldiers, including myself,” said Collins. “We’ve trained for over 100 days. The typical National Guardsmen only trains for about 39 days within their calendar year.”

The 1-297th joined the 29th IBCT at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Louisiana this summer for a month-long large-scale combat training event.

“Over the past year, I have seen you persevere through difficult conditions and grow into an effective and cohesive team,” said Bushatz, emphasizing the extreme temperature change from negative 60 in the Arctic to 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the West South-Central region that the unit trained in down in the lower 48. “You’ve sweat, you’ve bled, you’ve struggled, and you persevered to prepare yourself for this day.”

The deployment ceremony was not the first for many of the Guardsmen in the formation. In 2020, more than 150 Guardsmen from the 1-297th returned from a year-long deployment to Kosovo. They monitored the country’s administrative border and ports of entry to provide freedom of movement and safety for its people.

“I look forward to working alongside of each of you and watching y’all achieve your personal and professional goals over the next nine months,” said Collins ending his speech with Bison Company’s motto “Into the Storm” – celebrating the fearless attitude of the animal and the spirit of facing the storm head-on.

“I do not know exactly what the future holds for you, but after years training to prepare yourselves for this great adventure, I am confident that you will exceed in every mission that is placed before this unit,” said Bushatz.

The unit will finalize deployment training at Fort Bliss, Texas, before heading overseas.

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