By Bruce Karnick [email protected] Hastings is home to the Minnesota National Guard 434th Chemical Company, a highly specialized group of folks who handle Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and …
By Bruce Karnick
Hastings is home to the Minnesota National Guard 434th Chemical Company, a highly specialized group of folks who handle Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) materials. They are trained to handle all types of weapons threats as well as decontaminate hazardous material spills or accidents within our own (as an example) hospitals where radiation from (X-ray), or medicines or fuels (chemicals), as well as biological or nuclear releases.
The unit has roughly 150 soldiers that range from as young as 18 to as old as 51. 68% of the deploying unit is under the age of 25. These soldiers represent several communities throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma. For about 120 of them, this will be their first deployment, 25 have been on one deployment prior and three soldiers are on their third or more deployment. 70 deploying soldiers have at least one dependent family member, 20 have two, and 14 have three or more. Nearly 33% of those deploying are female.
The unit is made up of intelligent folks as well. 30 are in the process of earning a college degree, eight have an associates degree and 22 have a master’s degree.
Along with being a diverse group of ages, it is a diverse group of races as well. 105 are Caucasian, five are African American, 16 are Asian American, 11 are from Hispanic or Latin decent, and there are one each from Korean descent, Filipino and Native Alaskan.
The 434th Chemical Company will deploy in support of Operation Spartan Shield to Kuwait in order to provide CBRN defense.
“In early June is when we actually fly out to Fort Hood to do all our pre-mobilization training. Then we'll deploy from Fort Hood, to Kuwait,” explained Captain Andrew Duitsman, commander of the deploying troops. “We’ll have home station activities the first couple of days in June and then on the sixth is when we'll actually fly out to Fort Hood. Then we complete our training, and then we'll fly out after our training is complete to Kuwait from there.”
Captain Duitsman explained the skills of the 434th. “We're a CBRN company so it's chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, so if any, like WMD or chemical incident were to happen or somebody to use chemical warfare we're there to help either [decontaminate] and recon to figure out where the actual contaminants are and kind of mitigate some situations if need be. If troops were to be in harm's way, we'd go decon them and kind of clean them up.”
Each battalion is assigned some kind of animal nickname, the 434th’s is the Dragon. Dragon Soldiers. The Dragon Soldiers have two weeks to finalize their business at home before they return to Hastings to continue training. On June 6th, they will be bussed to the airport to fly to Fort Hood where they will receive mission specific training. From there, they will fly to Kuwait for a nine-month deployment.
“I am proud the members of this unit and their willingness to go above and beyond to prepare for this mission,” said Captain Duitsman, “We have had almost two years of training leading up to this event. I am confident in the abilities and professionalism of these Soldiers.”
No official time was given for the deployment piece on June 6th. When the information is made available, it will be shared in hopes to generate thousands of people lining the streets of Hastings to see our soldiers off and wish them a safe deployment.