WA National Guard deploys largest overseas force in over a decade

The Washington National Guard has sent more than 700 soldiers with the Guard’s 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team to Poland in support of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence mission.

It is the largest deployment for the Washington National Guard since 2010 when 3,500 troops deployed to Ukraine, according to spokesperson Joseph Siemandel.

“Even while dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, our citizen-soldiers continue to train and deploy in support of our overseas requirements,” said Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty, the Adjutant General of the Washington National Guard. “These Guardsmen supported so many missions this past year and continue to be professional and motivated to enhance the safety and security of our state and nation.”

The NATO mission, led by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Germany, consists of four battalion-sized groups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. The mission is intended to deter any attack on the allied forces or the countries they’re supporting, according to a National Guard spokesperson.

The 81st SBCT is an infantry battalion so most of the soldiers will be working on Strykers or tanks, according to Siemandel. The Guardsmen will be deployed for about one year, but, due to COVID-19 travel protocols, only about 10 months of their deployment will be spent in Poland.

Over the last year, more than 3,000 Washington Guardsmen were activated to support a number of missions at home, including Washington state’s COVID-19 response and civil unrest in Olympia and Washington D.C. Washington has approximately 8,000 Guardsmen in the Air and Army National Guard.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly 17,000 Washington National Guardsmen have deployed overseas. About 150 soldiers from the 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team are deployed in Ukraine in support of a multinational training mission.

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