Troops to be welcomed homeOrganizers hope to see U.S. 59 lined with supporters
WORTHINGTON — Police officers, firefighters and citizens will be gathering today to welcome home soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 51st Field Artillery unit of the Army National Guard.
WORTHINGTON — Police officers, firefighters and citizens will be gathering today to welcome home soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 51st Field Artillery unit of the Army National Guard. The unit, which includes soldiers from Marshall and the surrounding areas, landed at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin March 28 after spending more than a year in Iraq.
Although their schedule is always subject to change, the current plan is for the soldiers to leave Fort McCoy this morning, heading down I-90 to Worthington, where they will meet up with a motorcade that includes police, firefighters and the Patriot Riders, according to Paul Ramsbey, the Patriot Riders section ride captain for an 8-county region in southwest Minnesota.
“We’re meeting in the Prairie Holdings parking lot around 8:30 a.m.,” Ramsbey said Thursday morning. “We’re supposed to pick up three buses around noon to escort up (U.S.) 59 to Marshall.”
As the motorcade travels north, it will pass through several towns planning roadside greetings of their own using citizens bearing flags and banners to wave and cheer as the troops pass. In Fulda, personnel from the police department, fire department and ambulance crew are asked to show support, and in Slayton, plans are in the works to keep fire fighters, officers, ambulance crews and citizens as informed as possible regarding the approximate time the motorcade will travel through town.
Slayton Police Chief Brian Christensen had dispatch send out a page this week to all Murray County fire departments and ambulance crews in regard to the motorcade.
“We’re hoping to have people lining as much of the route as possible,” Christensen said. “Flags, banners — anything to welcome back the troops.”
Some of the fire departments are sending rigs down to Worthington to join the convoy, Christensen said, and others will line the highway.
“We’re trying to get as many people as possible to show support of our troops,” he added. “Everyone is invited. We want as many people as possible to show up.”
At the moment, the convoy of troops and support vehicles are supposed to leave Worthington around 8:30 or 9 a.m. and hit the Slayton area around 10 a.m., but in all things military, “Hurry up and wait” is the norm. An extensive network of cell phone-bearing citizens, including Ramsbey and Christensen, will be used to give people as much warning as possible. Christensen will have dispatch send out a message over the pagers when he hears that the troops are in Worthington. He also hopes to keep Slayton-based KJOE radio in the loop, so people are asked to tune in to 106.1 FM for information. In Worthington, listeners can tune in to US 104 for information at 104.3 FM.
The 1st Battalion, 51st Field Artillery unit is comprised of five major units, including A Battery in Marshall. Headquartered at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, the unit provided convoy security and force protection for logistical supply convoys from Kuwait to Forward Operating Bases throughout Iraq.
According to the Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs Office, the 1st Battalion, 51st Field Artillery unit of more than 550 soldiers successfully completed 591 combat missions, traveling more than 1.9 million miles without accident or injury, received the first Theater Sustainment Command Safety award and conducted 127 soldier re-enlistments while deployed.