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Minnesota National Guard
Guard unit combines deployment ceremony, picnic

By Dan Nienaber Free Press Staff Writer The Mankato Free Press
May 31, 2011

MANKATO — Balancing three plates full of food in his hands, Maj Darrin Janisch found a picnic table in Sibley Park and sat down by himself

Within seconds, as he unstacked the plates and set them out, he was surrounded by family His 3-year-old daughter, Kate, and 6-year-old daughter, Lauren, slid in close on each side of him to make a daddy sandwich Zach, at nine Janisch’s oldest child, reached over his youngest sister’s head for a bag of chips while Janisch’s wife, Ann, sat next to Lauren More relatives filled the bench on the other side of the table

At the same time Capt Scott Shatek had his infant daughter, Leyla, nestled perfectly into his left arm He was laughing as his son, a toddler named Ryder, showed off his ability to walk backwards Shatek tapped Janisch with his right hand before introducing his daughter, born just 19 days ago, to the senior officer

A Memorial Day family picnic at the park became regimental a short time later as the two officers and a few dozen other soldiers stood at attention and listened to their orders to deploy to Kuwait They will board a bus in Mankato today and join about 2,400 Minnesota National Guard soldiers in support of Operation New Dawn The one-year deployment is the second largest for Minnesota National Guard troops since World War II

Mobilization ceremonies have been taking place throughout the state since May 15 The significance of having the Mankato unit’s ceremony on Memorial Day, which happened by chance because they are scheduled to leave for training today before being sent overseas, was addressed by Lt. Col. Charles Kemper He spoke to his troops, and their families, as the soldiers stood at parade rest in the middle of Sibley Park

It was troops from the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment, which later evolved into the state’s National Guard, that were the first to join President Lincoln’s Union Army at the beginning of the Civil War Kemper highlighted one brutal fight that regiment participated in at the beginning of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 Of the 262 men who charged into a leading Confederate brigade, only 47 returned when that July 2 fight was over

“It’s humbling when you consider their service,” Kemper said “That’s when our regimental motto was born: ‘To the last man’”

Janisch used to live in Mankato but now lives in Savage He and many of the other Minnesota soldiers who will be deploying to Kuwait have earned national recognition, themselves They were among the soldiers who served 22 months overseas, longer than any other ground combat unit That included 14 months in Iraq, a tour that was extended when a surge of troops was sent in an effort to end the fighting

Their main mission this time will be to assist with the drawdown phase of US military operations in Iraq They’re currently scheduled to return next spring

“I told my wife I can probably do this year deployment with my eyes closed,” Janisch said “It’s going to be interesting to be there when they turn out the lights in Iraq, to see the end”

Shatek, who lives in Cottage Grove, admitted it will be difficult to be away from his wife, Crystal, and their children He has deployed before while married, but this will be the couple’s first deployment with children at home

“It will be tough having the little one and missing out on some of those firsts,” Shatek said “But I’m ready to go We’ve been training for this for quite awhile”

The couple actually planned to have Leyla just before Shatek deployed It was easier than waiting, he said, and he’s looking forward to telling her some good stories when she’s older

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