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Local soldiers will lead

Rosemount National Guard soldiers who serve in the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division will be among more than 1,000 providing leadership in southern Iraq next year.

The Red Bull Division is headquartered at the Rosemount Community Center. Sixteen Rosemount residents are among the soldiers who will deploy.

The soldiers, who will support Operation Iraqi Freedom for a year, will operate in the southern third of Iraq and be responsible for the provinces south of Baghdad, west to the province of Al Anbar, south of the nations of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and east to the Iranian border.

The announcement brought some bigwigs to Rosemount, where the division is headquartered, including Adjutant General Larry Shellito, head of the Minnesota National Guard and Major General Richard Nash, commander of the division.

"The scope of this mission is unprecedented," said Nash of the division's mission in Iraq.

Nash called this deployment a milestone for the Minnesota National Guard, which he said has never served in this capacity before. While it's not the largest deployment the 34th has had, the role in which the division will serve is different. Lt. Col. Kevin Olson said the division will command all coalition military operations in eight of Iraq's 18 provinces. The division will provide leadership to the 16,000-person multinational task force assigned to the region.

Nash said the mission is not to fight but to support the Iraqi people in their efforts to take control of their own country.

For the next year, the 1,037 soldiers from the division will aid the Iraqi people in establishing independence and security. The 34th will take over from the 10th Mountain Division, an active duty army division out of Ft. Drum, N.Y.

The soldiers will leave in February for training at Ft. Lewis, an active Army base outside Seattle, Wash. Soldiers are expected to arrive in Iraq sometime in April. Their return is tentatively scheduled for February 2010.

Jennifer Aga, a soldier with the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division, said she is excited for the opportunity to serve her country. Aga will serve in the legal assistance department as a paralegal.

"I am excited about this opportunity and am going with a lot of great people," said Aga.

Aga will leave behind two small children. While sad about the time away from her kids, Aga said this is something she's got to do.

"It's going to be an eye opening experience," she said

Soldiers will be deployed from units in several communities including Rosemount, Faribault, Inver Grove Heights and Stillwater.

From Rosemount-based units there will be 425 soldiers deployed from the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division headquarters and 43 from the Rosemount-based 34th Infantry Band.