Next year, members of the Tennessee National Guard will deploy to Poland over a two-year period, and are preparing for additional military missions that remain classified.
Maj. Gen. Terry “Max” Haston said the deployment of some of the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment will begin in mid-May with training in Fort Irwin and Fort Hood, and will then head overseas to Poland.
Haston said the deployment will include two task forces of about 1,000 soldiers, and each will serve year-long deployments with about nine months on the ground in Poland for each.
It’s the first time since 2008-09 that the 278th has deployed, Haston said. Before that the regiment deployed to Iraq in 2005.
The deployment will extend a U.S. presence near the Russian border, which was ordered three years ago under President Barack Obama after Russia annexed Crimea, which drew sharp criticism from world leaders, including Obama, and strained relations.
Obama pledged during a June 2016 summit in Poland that the U.S. would deploy 1,000 troops, among them armored units. U.S. forces have also been deployed to Romania and Bulgaria in recent years.
In 2014 at the time of the annexation, U.S. forces had been effectively withdrawn from Eastern Europe.
Haston said the deployment does not exactly represent a show of force, but “it’s a show of determination” in Europe.
“It’s just putting a big dog in the backyard,” Haston said.
The 278th ACR has been to Fort Irwin and Fort Hood in recent months, but no formal announcement of a deployment had been made.
Eastern Europe has been a location where several military units have deployed in recent years, including elements of the Tennessee National Guard, though they have not been deployed with specific combat missions.
Haston said there are at least two other pending deployments "not for public consumption."
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