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Arkansas Guardsmen leave on yearlong mission to train Ukrainian forces

Troops from Natural State will train Ukrainian soldiers at base in Germany by Ashley Savage | April 5, 2023 at 4:02 a.m.
Sienna Mothershed, 3, helps her uncle, Spc. Corbin Woodward, to his bus Tuesday during a deployment ceremony for the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team at Camp Robinson in this April 2023 file photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)

More than 160 Arkansas National Guardsmen from Camp Robinson's 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team deployed Tuesday morning, embarking on a yearlong mission "to help deter aggression in Europe."

The Guardsmen will be tasked with training and advising Ukrainian soldiers at a base in Germany.

Family members, friends and other Guardsmen gathered outside the team's headquarters early Tuesday morning in a deployment ceremony for the group.

"This is going to be a very important and consequential mission," Arkansas' Maj. Gen. Jonathan Stubbs said. "This is an incredible brigade with an incredibly rich history of service and of sacrifice. These wonderful soldiers that you see in front of you ... they are going to represent our state and nation with absolute honor and with absolute, undeniable success and excellence."

A news release from the Arkansas National Guard on Monday said members of the 39th IBCT will be joining the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine to "mentor and advise" Ukrainian armed forces.

"These soldiers are America's best," Col. Chad Bridges, 39th IBCT commander, said.

Bridges also used a moment of his speech to shed light on previous comments made by the nation's highest-ranking military officer, Gen. Mark Milley.

"The senior-most military officer in the United States military, Gen. Mark Milley, said, 'this is not a normal deployment; This is not just another rotation,' Bridges said. "'If you ever wanted to make a difference, this is it.'"

After their departure from Camp Robinson, the guardsmen are headed to mobilization training in Fort Bliss, Texas.

The soldiers will then deploy to Grafenwoehr, Germany, after their training.

In Grafenwoehr, members of the 39th IBCT will train, advise and mentor Ukrainian armed forces and "enable combat training center capability and capacity to help the Ukrainians better defend their country from aggression," according to the news release.

"We're going to be watching what they do play out on the news," Stubbs said. "Stay tuned, everybody. What you see happen on the news, these incredible soldiers are playing a decisive part in, and we're so proud. They are well led, well trained and they will make Arkansas proud."

Bridges and Stubbs both took turns sharing words of gratitude and sympathy for the crowd of family and friends in attendance Tuesday.

"I can tell you, just as Gen. Stubbs said, this is important work in a critical time in the defense of Ukraine and what our national objectives are as it relates to the sovereignty and defense of Ukraine," Bridges said. "I hope that you know that they are making a distinctive difference. The ability to contribute and participate in this is very unique and these soldiers right here are the best of America. We look forward to making all of you proud."

As the ceremony concluded, family members and friends crowded the lot, embracing the soldiers as they shared their last few minutes under cloudy skies.

Somewhere in the crowd of people, one person laughed as tears filled their eyes, adding: "Is it just me or is everyone trying not to cry?"

Just moments before, Stubbs used the final minutes of his time at the podium to share his words for the family members in the crowd sitting just across from the standing group of soldiers.

"To the family members, make no mistake, and I need you to know this absolutely and undeniably -- we are with you," Stubbs said. "We are behind you, and we are here for you. The Arkansas National Guard is here for you and the state of Arkansas is here for you. If you need something let us know. We will be there and that is my promise to you. We love you, we thank you and we honor you in your service and your sacrifice."

 Gallery: Deployment Ceremony

Print Headline: 160 guardsmen begin 1-year mission


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