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Ebola fight: Minnesota National Guardsmen to deploy to Liberia

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Nearly 700 soldiers in the Minnesota National Guard are being deployed to Liberia in the spring to help with the fight against the Ebola virus.

They are members of the Rosemount-based 34th Red Bull Infantry Division, and will be deployed for about six months beginning in April, according to a news release from the Minnesota National Guard.

The soldiers will not be directly involved with treatment of Ebola patients, but will "synchronize the operations, logistics, personnel and resources of the U.S. military forces assigned to the area," according to the release.

"And importantly for the Liberian people, the Minnesota National Guard presence will provide confidence that something can and will be done to stop the spread of disease, said Army Maj. Gen. Rick Nash, the adjutant general of the Guard.

The troops will receive specific medical training and use special protective equipment to protect them from exposure to the virus.

"Preserving the health of our soldiers is the highest priority for this mission," said Army Maj. Gen. Neal Loidolt, commanding general of the 34th Infantry Division.

Gov. Mark Dayton released a statement Sunday evening regarding the deployment.

“President Obama has assigned our nation's very best, the Minnesota National Guard, to perform this critical mission in West Africa. Their heroic work will protect the health and safety of Americans here at home and of people throughout the world.

"I thank these Minnesota heroes for their service. I want to assure them and their families that we will do everything possible to ensure their successful mission and their safe return to their loved ones.”

National Guard leaders will discuss the deployment in more detail at a Monday morning news conference.

In recent years, thousands of Red Bulls were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as well as peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Kosovo.

The Minnesota Guard deployment is part of a larger callup of 2,100 Army National Guard and Army Reserve forces that was authorized by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Units from several other states, including California, Iowa, Ohio, Kansas and Texas will also be deployed.

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