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NEWS | June 6, 2024

Alaska Guard Soldiers honored before Middle East deployment

By By Balinda O'neal Alaska National Guard

, Alaska – Alaska Army National Guardsmen assigned to the 49th Personnel Detachment, commonly known as the 49th Theater Gateway, were honored during a deployment ceremony at the Camp Carroll flagpole on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, June 1.
Nine Soldiers will embark on a nine-month rotation to Kuwait in support of Operation Spartan Shield.

During the ceremony, Col. Michele Edwards, commander of the 297th Regional Support Group, the brigade in which the 49th Theater Gateway falls under, addressed the Soldiers directly, affirmed the Soldiers’ readiness for the upcoming mission and the challenges it may present.

“This small but mighty group of nine Soldiers will contribute to the Army’s mission – to deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars,” said Edwards. She emphasized that their efforts directly enhance force protection, enabling the U.S. Central Command combatant commander to respond effectively to regional and global needs.
The unit will be tasked with conducting personnel accountability for servicemembers traveling within the CENTCOM area of responsibility. This mission is critical to ensure the efficient and secure movement of military personnel throughout the region.

"Basically, what a theater gateway does is we help move people who just got off the plane,” said Maj. Alex McMahan, commander of the 49th TG. “Not everyone is going to end up in Kuwait. They need to go out into CENTCOM and perform their mission. So, our job is to track them and to help them move to their next destination."

The ceremony offered a time for families, friends, and fellow servicemembers to gather and bid farewell to the Soldiers ahead of their mobilization to Fort Cavazos, Texas, over the next couple of weeks.

"Thank you all for your dedication, selfless service, and commitment to our nation,” said Edwards, recognizing the individual achievements of each member of the team during her speech. “You are outstanding individual Soldiers, but together your strength is found through unity.”  

McMahan expressed gratitude for the sacrifices made by his Soldiers, acknowledging the significant commitment to leave their civilian lives and families for a nine-month deployment. He emphasized that their service is not only personally meaningful to him but also crucial for the organization and the nation.

Operation Spartan Shield is a key operation within CENTCOM’s efforts to strengthen defense relationships and promote stability in the Middle East.

McMahan said that the Alaska National Guard's participation in this rotation presents a unique opportunity to demonstrate proficiency in theater gateway operations, as there are only nine such units in the entire Army, encompassing both reserve and active components.

The 49th Theater Gateway Personnel Accountability Team stood up in September 2002 as the 480th Ordnance Detachment in Phoenix, Arizona. The unit was re-flagged and assigned to the AKARNG at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson as the 49th Personnel Detachment in September 2009. The unit previously deployed to Kuwait in support of Operation Spartan Shield in 2017.