Soldiers with a North Dakota National Guard unit that has been deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo in the war on terror are now serving in Washington, D.C.
About 200 soldiers with the 1st Battalion of the 188th Air Defense Artillery Regiment will spend about a year helping to protect the airspace around the nation's capital. More than 1,000 people filled the Alerus Center in Grand Forks on Sunday to send them off on the homeland security mission.
"This will be a unique mission for the North Dakota National Guard in that it's rare to deploy such a large group on a yearlong mission inside of our country's borders," said Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, commander of the state Guard.
It is the 10th time since 2004 that soldiers with the battalion have been deployed.
"The 1-188 ADA only makes up about 10 percent of the North Dakota National Guard, but it has had 20 percent of its deployments," Sprynczynatyk said.
The unit is headquartered in Grand Forks and has units in Bismarck and Fargo. The deploying soldiers come from 27 North Dakota communities and 12 cities in neighboring states.