Pennsylvania National Guard Members Deploy to Africa

U.S. Soldiers from the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team have recently gone to Africa to help Special Operations Command Africa.

There are nine Soldiers going to Somalia in the Horn of Africa and five going to Benin in West Africa as part of Task Force Iroquois teams.

“During our time together, we have become a strong team that works hard to accomplish our mission and takes care of each other,” said Lt. Col. Mark Kurzawa, the officer-in-charge of the Horn of Africa Forward Logistical Element.

Since January, the members of the task force have taken part in 14 drill days, 14 days of annual training, and an eight-day pre-deployment site survey in Germany and Africa. Based on their roles, they have completed courses in maintenance, culinary, finance, unit movement, hazardous materials, and vehicle recovery.

“The most important thing to understand about this mission is that it is being done for the first time,” said Kurzawa. “We haven’t had any previous examples or instructions to help us.”

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In a deployment, there is typically a larger group and a final training exercise to confirm that the group’s training is effective. However, in this situation, the Soldiers are assessed on their individual tasks because they will be working in small teams in remote locations and performing skills that are specific to their military job.

“The MOSs going to Benin are specific to that location,” said Kurzawa. “Our culinary specialist is going there because they rely on the local economy to obtain food. They receive a daily allowance for their expenses.” The western region is more strict and it is harder to travel by air. On the other hand, in the eastern region, everything comes through Djibouti, where there is a nearby large base.

The Soldiers will undergo additional training in Texas for a few weeks before being deployed to Africa for almost a year.

“This will be a time when we have to give up certain things and be apart from each other, but it will be worth it in the end.” Although you will be physically apart, your hearts will still be connected. “You are doing something that is more important than just yourselves,” said Lt. Col. Alicia Partin of the 328th Brigade Support Battalion, which is the main unit for most Task Force Iroquois Soldiers.

Kurzawa stated that when these Soldiers come back, they will bring advanced leadership skills and experience to the 28th ID and the Pennsylvania National Guard.

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