Alaska guardsmen deploy to Kuwait for Operation Spartan Shield

Inside the Gates
Alaska guardsmen deploy to Kuwait for Operation Spartan Shield
Published: Oct. 18, 2023 at 4:58 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - At a send-off ceremony held Sept. 29, nearly 100 Alaska Army National Guardsmen assigned Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment prepared for deployment to the Middle East.

The ceremony was held at the Alaska National Guard Armory on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson as friends, family, and fellow guardsmen joined the “Bison” Company servicemembers before they headed for a temporary stop in Fort Bliss, Texas for their final stretch of deployment training.

During the ceremony, battalion commander Lt. Col. Luke Bushatz addressed the guardsmen in a speech that admired their resiliency and desire to protect fundamental freedoms.

“Over the past year, I have seen you persevere through difficult conditions and grow into an effective and cohesive team,” Bushatz told the regiment. “The next 10 months will bring significant growth to you as individuals, and also as a company.”

Eventually, the 1-297th will deploy to Kuwait in November as part of its mission to support U.S. Central Command in continuing to increase regional security as part of Operation Spartan Shield.

According to the “Bison” Company’s Commander, Capt. Richard Collins, the 1-297th exceeded the minimum training requirements prior to deployment, as the unit has over 100 days of cumulative training in the past year.

“We’ve conducted several training exercises leading up to this point,” Collins said. “The year before last, we were executing a training exercise in California — that was about 30 days long — [and] just this year we conducted a CTC rotation at Fort Polk [Louisiana] which was equally 30 days long.”

Earlier this summer, the 1-297th participated in a month-long combat operation training event with the 29th IBCT at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, Louisiana. The training event was in preparation for their upcoming deployment to Kuwait.

According to Sgt. 1st Class Sean Carey — the company’s platoon sergeant — the deployment will last just under a year and serves as a good training opportunity for soldiers experiencing their first mission overseas.

“My primary job is Junior Leader Development,” Carey said. “So nine months of having these soldiers and helping them grow to fill those next-generation leadership roles — this is how we develop our leaders in the National Guard.”

This deployment will be Carey’s third with the National Guard, having previously served in Kuwait as well as Afghanistan and Kosovo.

The 1-297th is one of seven battalions that make up the Hawaii Army National Guard’s 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. The team has four battalions stationed in Hawaii, as well as additional battalions in Alaska, Guam, and Arizona.