A group of Missouri National Guard soldiers are headed to the Middle East.
A departure ceremony for the 1st Battalion, 138th Infantry Regiment was held at the Perry Park Center on Friday.
The regiment readying to support Operation Spartan Shield. The members will provide a quick reaction force in the Middle East, supporting a National Guard company from Arkansas and a combat team from Mississippi.
“Citizen-Soldiers have served our nation since the dawn of time,” Major General Levon Cumpton said. “The National Guard has continued to help those at home and around the world as we continue our fight on terrorism.”
Cumpton said that the National Guard serves two missions when it comes to protecting freedoms of the nation.
“We come when called by the nation and support our state citizens when the governor calls us to duty,” he said. “We are no stranger to either of those. They serve very well because of our mission statement which is to train so we can fight to win while we take care of each other as one team. It’s what our nation and state expects of us.”
During the ceremony, as per tradition, the oldest soldier in the unit was responsible for carrying the American flag throughout the deployment and returning it safely. The oldest soldier in the unit is SSG Conrad Balance. He enlisted in the Army in 2001 in communications. He served the 101st Airborne division, earning his Air Assault Badge, deployed in Iraq in 2003 and served until 2005. He enlisted in the Army in 2012 as an Infantryman, where he served with the 82nd Airborne division and earned his Parachutist Badge, and deployed to Afghanistan in 2013. He joined the Missouri National Guard in 2017.
The youngest soldier does the same with Missouri’s state flag.
That was PFC Nathaniel Bartch. He is from DeSoto and enlisted in the Missouri Army National Guard in 2021 as an infantryman. He graduated basic traning and advanced infantry school from Fort Benning in 2022.