A Duluth-based unit of the Minnesota Army National Guard is deploying to Afghanistan next month, their second deployment in the past four years.
On Oct. 12, the 114th Transportation Company will head to Fort Hood, Texas, where 147 of its 220 members will spend two months training. The soldiers, who largely hail from Duluth, the Iron Range, the Twin Cities, Rochester and Austin, will then leave for Bagram, Afghanistan, for 10 months.
The soldiers learned last year that they would deploy again, said Capt. Ryan Koester, the unit's commander.
"For the last year we've been kind of calming down and now starting up the process and training up again to go back over," he said.
Koester said the company will escort Afghan contractors bringing supplies and equipment to forward operating bases. He said it also may take gear to assist with the eventual withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
The company members have mixed emotions about their latest tour of duty.
"I've got a whole bunch of soldiers who have deployed before, some are excited to deploy again, some are a little anxious, they haven't been over there before, they don't know what to feel, what it's going to be like," Koester said. "And we've got a lot of soldiers who have families. They're going to miss their families."
The 114th, returned from their first year-long deployment in June, 2010. One Minnesota soldier was killed by an improvised explosive device during that mission. Specialist George Cauley, 24, of Walker, Minn., was killed on Oct. 10, 2009.
About 250 Minnesota National Guard soldiers and airmen are now in Afghanistan.