Guard's mobilization ceremony largely virtual in Bismarck

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A send-off ceremony for dozens of North Dakota National Guard members looks very different in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Families weren't invited to the ceremony Sunday in Bismarck where 72 guard members of an assault helicopter company were preparing for a nine-month deployment to Washington D.C. They are mobilizing in support of a mission that stands ready to evacuate the Pentagon's command if needed.

Rows of soldiers wearing masks sat 6 feet (1.8 meters) apart in the guard hangar for a ceremony that was streamed live on Facebook.

“This ceremony is part of the new normal. But one thing that is not part of the new normal, something that we continue to do day-in and day-out is that we remain always ready and always there,” said Maj. Gen. Al Dohrmann.

Guard specialist Kyle Gensburger wished his family had been present, KFYR-TV reported.

“I would love to have my family down here, my boys especially, they see and they play with the little model Black Hawks that I have at home and I’ve always wanted to bring them down here,” said Gensburger.

The guard members are expected to leave in November.