Alaska Army National Guard’s Bison Company set to deploy to Middle East

Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson, Alaska (KINY) - Approximately 100 Alaska Army National Guardsmen assigned to Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment, are gearing up for a deployment to Kuwait in November as part of Operation Spartan Shield.
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(Alaska Army National Guardsmen with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment, and their families are honored during a deployment ceremony at the Alaska National Guard Armory on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Sept. 29, 2023. Approximately 100 Soldiers are deploying to the Middle East for nine months in support of Operation Spartan Shield. Alaska National Guard photo by Balinda O’Neal)

A heartfelt ceremony took place on Sept. 29 at the Alaska National Guard Armory on JBER, where family members, friends, and fellow Guardsmen came together to pay tribute to the Soldiers of “Bison” Company, as they are affectionally known, before their journey begins.

During the ceremony, Lt. Col. Luke Bushatz, 1-297th battalion commander, spoke to the Guardsmen about safeguarding the fundamental freedoms we cherish and how easily they can be taken from us by weak citizenry.

“You guard liberty because you choose to be a part of something that is bigger than the individual,” said Bushatz. “You willingly choose to submit yourselves to one another, holding yourself accountable for the preservation of rights of men given by God.”

In support of U.S. Central Command, Bison Company’s mission will continue to build partner capacity and increase regional security.

“We will be doing a security forces mission for [High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems],” said Capt. Richard Collins, the Bison Company commander, referencing the rocket systems used and training between the U.S. and Kuwaiti forces that helps maintain a high level of combat readiness and effective communication between the two forces.

The 1-297th is part of a geographically dispersed brigade that is headquartered in the Hawaii ARNG. The HAARNG’s 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team has four battalions stationed in Hawaii, along with a battalion in Alaska, Guam and Arizona, respectively.

“I’m extremely excited for the Soldiers, including myself,” said Collins. “We’ve trained for over 100 days. The typical National Guardsmen only trains for about 39 days within their calendar year.”

In preparation for their upcoming deployment, the 1-297th joined the 29th IBCT at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La., this summer for a month-long rotation where they participated in a large-scale combat operations training event.

“Over the past year I have seen you persevere through difficult conditions and grow into an effective and cohesive team,” said Bushatz, emphasizing the extreme temperature change from negative 60 in the Arctic to 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the West South-Central region that the unit trained in down in the lower 48. “You’ve sweat, you’ve bled, you’ve struggled, and you persevered to prepare yourself for this day.”

For many of the Guardsmen in the formation, this was not their first deployment ceremony. In 2020, more than 150 Guardsmen from the 1-297th returned from a year-long deployment to Kosovo. There they were assigned to monitor the country’s administrative border lines and ports of entry to provide freedom of movement and a safe environment for the country’s people.

“I look forward to working alongside of each of you and watching y’all achieve your personal and professional goals over the next nine months,” said Collins ending his speech with Bison Company’s motto “Into the Storm” – celebrating the fearless attitude of the animal and the spirit of facing the storm head-on.

“I do not know exactly what the future holds for you but after years training to prepare yourselves for this great adventure I am confident that you will exceed in every mission that is placed before this unit,” said Bushatz.

The unit will leave Alaska next week for Fort Bliss, Texas, where they will finalize their overseas deployment training.