HOPE, AR (KSLA) - Hundreds of Arkansas Army National Guard soldiers from around the state left for a deployment in East Africa on Sunday, including about 100 from Southwest Arkansas.
Around 700 soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment of the 39th Infantry Brigade have been called up for deployment in support of operations in the Horn of Africa under U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).
Soldiers left by bus Sunday afternoon from Hope and Texarkana, as well as Malvern, Camden, El Dorado and Mena and Warren.
The U.S. Combined Task force mission "conducts security force assistance, executes military engagement, provides force protection, and provides military support to regional counter-violent extremist organization operations in order to support aligned regional efforts, ensure regional access and freedom of movement, and protect U.S. interests," according to its website.
The military operation originated in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks under Operation Enduring Freedom to combat militant Islamism and piracy in the Horn of Africa.
The Horn of Africa is a peninsula in the continent's east region that includes the countries of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia.
The deployment is expected to last 9 months.
The Arkansas Guardsmen have already spent the past year training for the deployment and will complete several more weeks of additional training at Ft. Bliss, Texas before leaving for Djibouti.