On January 5th, I joined several state and local officials for a deployment ceremony honoring the 235th Military Policy Company. The unit from the South Dakota National Guard is heading to Guantanamo Bay for a challenging operational mission.
The war in Afghanistan may be over, but the War on Terror still carries on. Our state’s brave soldiers are stepping up to continue keeping our streets safe from international terrorism. During my speech, I highlighted half a dozen soldiers who were going on their fourth deployment since joining the National Guard.
These amazing troops have answered the call to serve and have been sent into action again and again. Still, they continue coming back and proudly serve with the best National Guard in the nation.
During his speech on Wednesday, Captain Patrick Moran, Commander of the 235th, highlighted some of the recent missions his troops have prepared for in recent years. He also spoke about his soldiers understanding their core mission, regardless of the venue.
“When I first took command of the 235th, I knew this, and I told the Soldiers that the professional that we want is the one that is willing to do the job – the job that others are not willing to do. I asked the unit for a motto, they came up with ‘Guardians over Glory,’” Captain Moran recalled in his speech.
“In a way that represents the 235th and what the history of the 235th Soldiers have done. They are the ones that don’t need the eye candy. They have always been the ones to step up and do whatever job asked of them.”
And they have been asked to do a lot in recent years. In June of 2020, the 235th was put on standby with less than 24 hours to prepare to be deployed to the riots in Minneapolis. That deployment was stayed, and instead the 235th successfully kept the streets peaceful in Pierre, Sioux Falls, and Rapid City.
They worked with local law enforcement and the Air National Guard Security Forces during President Donald Trump’s Fourth of July visit to Mount Rushmore. For most of 2020, members of the 235th were serving on Medical Transport Teams. In November 2020, they transitioned to vaccine mission teams. Throughout 2020 and 2021, their soldiers also served in Call Centers.
And then, in January 2021, they were deployed to Washington, D.C. Two weeks later, they were back in South Dakota training 800 National Guard soldiers on minimizing civil disturbances.
Over the last 16 months, while most of these other calls to action were happening, 113 members of the 235th Military Police Company have been training for this mission to Guantanamo Bay. Captain Moran was very clear about how unique this mission is to his Company.
“We won’t be dodging bullets across a battlefield,” Cpt. Moran explained, adding “we will have to battle complacency, mental health challenges, and strive for keen attention to detail and awareness on a daily basis.”
“GTMO has some of the world’s most dangerous and uniquely challenging prisoners and the 235th will be the Soldiers that will be hands on — in close contact with them on a day-to-day basis. If anyone knows about corrections or detainee operations, they know that this usually is not the most desired job that Soldiers want. This is the difficult task. No battle glory, no combat badges, this is the job that normally doesn’t come with a plethora of awards or recognition.”
I know our soldiers are ready for this mission because they have a clear vision for why they are serving in the first place: Guardians over Glory.
Thank you to Commander Moran for your inspiring words and strong leadership. I speak for all of South Dakota when I say we are praying for your safe return from this important mission. Godspeed.