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Ceremonies set in Waterloo Saturday for Iowa National Guard send-off

Ceremonies set in Waterloo Saturday for Iowa National Guard send-off

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WATERLOO — The COVID-19 pandemic is limiting the send-off activities for hundreds of Northeast Iowa soldiers deploying to the Middle East.

But members of the “Ironman” Battalion headquartered in Waterloo are hoping family members and the public still show their support Saturday as soldiers head off for a year-long deployment as part of Operation Spartan Shield.

Due to public health concerns related to COVID-19, send-off ceremonies at the Waterloo Readiness Center will not be open to the public.

But people can watch the ceremony and speakers, which will be live-streamed at noon on the Iowa National Guard Facebook site.

Family, friends and the public also are encouraged to line the departure route on Fourth Street downtown — exercising social distancing measures — to wave and cheer on the buses carrying the soldiers heading out on active duty.

The Iowa Army National Guard is holding modified ceremonies at several locations as its “Ironman” Battalion sends about 620 soldiers off on an expected year-long deployment. Some 150 of those soldiers are part of the 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division’s Headquarters Company based in Waterloo.

Another 130 soldiers, part of the “Red Horse” Squadron, also are departing Sunday as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Buses carrying soldiers from Headquarters Company are expected to leave the armory at 1 p.m. before heading through downtown on Fourth Street. Those wishing to support the soldiers are encouraged to gather on the downtown portion of the route.

Similar send-off events are being held Saturday in Dubuque, Iowa City, Iowa Falls and Davenport.

The Ironman Battalion will provide area security and force protection operations in the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility, which encompasses 27 countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

This is the fifth federal mobilization of the Ironman Battalion since 2000, including nearly 22 months supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom from September 2005 through August 2007. The battalion’s most recent deployment was to Afghanistan in 2010.

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