July 27 deployment for 69 National Guardsmen

A deployment ceremony on Saturday, July 27, will see off 69 soldiers of the South Dakota Army National Guard’s 152nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.

The public is encouraged to attend the 2 p.m. ceremony at T.F. Riggs High School in Pierre. Planned speakers include Governor Kristi Noem, Pierre Mayor Steve Harding, and Major General Jeff Marlette, South Dakota National Guard Adjutant General.

According to Anthony Deiss, of the SD National Guard public affairs office, the unit has been ordered to do a nine-month deployment to the Middle East to provide multifunctional logistics and support operations.

“Multifunctional logistics involves the movement, sustainment and maintenance of military forces,” Deiss said.“The 152nd is a headquarters element responsible for planning and synchronizing sustainment and integrating subordinate units into sustainment operations. It supports Army forces at the tactical and operational levels operating in its area that work to acquire, store, distribute materials and supplies such as: water, food, fuel, ammunition, medical supplies, equipment, repair parts, construction materials, as well as maintenance support.”

The unit will first report to Fort Hood, Texas, to complete several weeks of theater-specific training prior to deployment overseas.

“I don’t have a breakdown (by hometowns), but what I do know is of the 69 going they come from 29 South Dakota communities,” Deiss said.

This is the second mobilization for the 152nd CSSB since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The unit first deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2013. Of the 69 local Guardsmen, this is the second deployment for 22 of them and the third deployment for 10.

While under deployment, National Guard soldiers serve under salary.

“They receive the same pay and benefits as active duty service members. Their salary is determined by rank,” Deiss said.

It is up to each Guardsman’s civilian employer on how they work out the Guardsman’s employment status. “Most soldiers are just in a non-paid leave status. Sometimes employers hire temporary replacements until they return. When they return, soldiers have reemployment rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA),” Deiss said.

Little, if any, South Dakota National Guard equipment is going with the unit. “They mostly just have their personal gear. Much of the equipment they will use is already in theater,” Deiss said.

For the people left at home, Deiss added, “We typically don’t provide updates to missions or what they are doing due to operational security. If we receive anything we can share with the media or public, we will.”

Diess supplied photos from last year of the unit training at Fort Irwin, California, which training helped prepare them for this upcoming deployment.

According to Capital Journal articles from 2013, the 2013 activation ceremony for the 152nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion of the South Dakota National Guard lasted roughly an hour, but it was far later that the Guardsmen were finally able to rest after personally meeting the estimated 400 people who had nearly filled the school’s auditorium.

Friends, family and grateful citizens wished the 68 volunteer soldiers good luck during the unit’s first active duty deployment since being formed more than five years earlier. Some Guardsmen had extended family visiting from all parts of the state.

The unit had been aware of the deployment for two years, and had begun extensive training nine months in advance. This original deployment was for nine months in Afghanistan, but was shortened to six months.

During the 2013 ceremony, Lt. Col. Mike Oster, the unit’s commanding officer, said many of the unit’s members were on their second or third deployment.

Through it all, South Dakotans were phenomenally supportive, and Oster noted that only about a quarter of the 152nd’s soldiers were from the Pierre area. Both Pierre Mayor Laurie Gill and Governor Dennis Daugaard told how the community turned to the Guard for support during the 2011 flood.

National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Tim Reisch said, “It was citizen soldiers, not a standing army, that created these United States of America.”

On December 17, 2013, a welcome home ceremony was held for the returning guardsmen. A parade for the 152nd preceded the welcome home ceremony. The unit’s mission was to provide multi-functional combat support and combat service support to forces throughout an assigned area of operation. Multi-functional areas included supply, transportation, maintenance and ordnance support.

For the 2013 welcome home ceremony, yellow ribbons were tied along the route between the airport and the National Guard armory.

Reisch told about an email he received from General Frank J. Grass, a four-star general who was chief of the National Guard Bureau and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Grass had met the 152nd during their deployment, and was impressed. Daugaard and others also commented on the sheer amount of support the unit received, and that only 12 members of the unit are actually from the area.

Oster said the five-year-old unit felt it had become as much a part of the community as the more established 200th Engineering Company, also based in Pierre.

Oster told the audience the unit had achieved all its goals – including the overriding mission to bring everyone home safely.