The 1133rd sendoff. (KRIB photo)

About 160 Iowa National Guard soldiers have begun their year-long deployment to support U.S. and NATO operations in Poland.

The soldiers are from the Iowa National Guard’s 1133rd Transportation Company, based in Mason City with a detachment in Iowa City. Iowa National Guard Adjutant General Ben Corell addressed the soldiers during a send-off ceremony Sunday in Mason City.

“We are grateful that each one of you are part of the less than 1% that serve our nation,” Corell said. “We are proud of you and all that you do and we’re thankful for the families that are gathered here today that support you.”

Corell had a message for the families in the audience.

“I know the mixed emotions you have as we send off these important members of your family,” Corell said. “I know that it is our family members back home who also sacrifice much when our nation calls us away.”

Corell described the 1133rd as part of a military tradition that draws its strength from those who volunteer.

“My hope is that the sacrifices made by our all-volunteer force and by our families is recognized for the gift that it truly is for each citizen of our United States,” Corell said. “…You standing in front of me and your families understand this sacrifice. Those who cannot or choose not to serve will never fully understand what it means to have the higher calling and to honorably answer it.”

The 1133rd left Mason City on Sunday headed for Food Hood in Texas to complete their final training and readiness checks before deploying overseas. The unit was last activated in 2008 to support Operations Noble Eagle, Iraqi Freedom and the global war on terrorism.

(By Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City)