Local soldiers, Brendon Hoeke and Garrett Van Sambeek, were two of the 162 soldiers of the South Dakota Army National Guard’s 155th Engineer Company that were called to active duty this week. The unit will deploy to Kuwait for one year in support of Operation Enduring Freedom – Spartan Shield.
Hoeke is the son of Lyle and Laurie Hoeke of Milbank and the husband of Emma Hoeke (Larson) of Sioux Falls. Van Sambeek is the son of Rod and Stacy Van Sambeek of Milbank. Both soldiers volunteered to be part of the deployment. This is their first experience overseas.
The 155th is a vertical engineer company which provides engineering support in the construction of base camps and facilities. The unit’s mission is to provide construction, repair, and maintenance of vertical infrastructures and facilities on a base in Kuwait. The unit has a variety of occupational specialties including carpentry, plumbing, electrical, and masonry services.
This week, they took part in two activation ceremonies. The unit’s Detachment 1 is based out of Wagner and a community recognition ceremony was staged at the Wagner High School on Tuesday.
Mayor Donald Hosek officiated. The unit then traveled to Rapid City for an observance at the Rapid City Civic Center’s Barnett Arena Wednesday. “It was pretty cool and pretty patriotic,” said Lyle Hoeke. “We are so proud of our son.” Speakers in Rapid City included Governor Dennis Daugaard, US Senators John Thune and Michael Rounds, Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender, and Maj. Gen. Tim Reisch, SDNG Adjutant General.
“I am thankful for the sacrifice our National Guard are making,” said Gov. Daugaard. “National Guard soldiers in South Dakota are the most capable, dependable, adaptable, courageous, and determined people you will ever meet. They are the kind of people you want at your back. I am grateful for your willingness to serve.”
The unit boarded buses following the ceremony Wednesday and traveled to Fort Bliss, TX, where they will complete several weeks of theater-specific training prior to deployment. They will spend 365 days in Kuwait, according to L. Hoeke.
The deployment also touched another local family. Lacey Kasuske’s brother, Chase Hagen, is a member of the 155th Engineer Company. Kasuske is the secretary at the City of Milbank office.