In his four decades in the Minnesota National Guard, Sgt. Maj. Chris Schlukebier has deployed overseas three times. Each came at a different phase in the Rosemount man's life and to a different global hot spot: First to Bosnia in 2003 when his children were young, then to Iraq in 2009 — the most difficult deployment, because Iraq was especially dangerous and his three daughters were teenagers — and then to Kuwait in 2018.
On Thursday morning, Schlukebier, now a 57-year-old grandfather, strode into the Grace Church auditorium in Eden Prairie to report for overseas duty one more time, his last before retirement. He joined some 550 fellow soldiers in the 34th Infantry Division — mostly from Minnesota but also from bordering states — who were seated near the stage in military fatigues, awaiting their official ceremony to head to Kuwait. It was one of the largest deployments the Minnesota National Guard has seen in the past five years.
The circumstances around the group's deployment darkened considerably over the past few months. The Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack in Israel sparked a brutal Israeli reprisal in Gaza, with fears the war may spread throughout the region. On Sunday, an Iran-backed militia launched an attack on an American military base in Jordan, killing three American soldiers and injuring more than 40. President Joe Biden has vowed a strong response.
“It'll be a little more tense than last time, but being in…