The first of three groups of soldiers from the Kansas National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 161st Field Artillery, which has a subordinate unit in Great Bend, will be welcomed home from their year-long deployment to the Horn of Africa on Thursday Topeka.
The ceremony will begin at non at Washburn University’s Lee Arena in the Petro Building. The public is invited to attend. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. Ceremony dates and times for the other two groups will be sent out as soon as available.
The ceremony will honor approximately 160 soldiers who spent the last year conducting stability operations in Africa guarding regional security, preventing conflict and protecting U.S. and Coalition interests.
The unit deployed March 2, 2011, after training at the Kansas Regional Training Center, Salina.
“Protecting freedom, making lives better and building partnerships is what the Kansas National Guard is all about,” said Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, the adjutant general. “These soldiers carried out this mission in the Horn of Africa with professionalism and a can-do attitude that has become the hallmark of our troops. We thank them for a job well done and say ‘Welcome home.’ ”
“It has been my pleasure to serve with the professionals of the 1st Battalion, 161st Field Artillery,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Burke, commander of the 1-161st FA. “Throughout this deployment, they have endured the personal sacrifices to enable the safety of U.S. and Coalition personnel and equipment abroad while successfully conducting over 50 military mentoring missions in nine African countries.”
The battalion is headquartered in Wichita, with other subordinate units in Dodge City, Lenexa, Liberal, Hutchinson, Newton, Paola, Pratt and Topeka.
The 1st Battalion, 161st Field Artillery was the second of two teams that have been sent by the Kansas National Guard to the Horn of Africa.