(Harrisburg) — A Pennsylvania National Guard unit is deploying to eastern Europe as part of a years-long international effort to prevent Russian aggression.

The 3rd Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment will lead Battle Group Poland, one of four such groups established by NATO after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014.

The 533 soldiers of the unit headquartered in Danville, Montour County are in Texas completing final exercises before heading to Poland for the next year.

The unit, which is part of the 28th Infantry Division, has been training for the deployment over the past two years.

That included a stint at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, where troops simulate battle.

“Obviously we don’t anticipate any combat operations,” Squadron Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Mark O’Neill said. “We will be fully prepared to conduct them if necessary, but we anticipate most of our time being spent on training with our NATO partners and allies.”

The unit will be working with soldiers from the United Kingdom, Croatia, and Romania.

O’Neill said the collaboration gives his troops the opportunity to learn new skills and perspectives and prepares all involved for potential conflict.

“The more we can build the readiness of our NATO partners, the less strain it puts on our military. It cuts down on our deployment schedule,” O’Neill said.

He said about half the squadron’s soldiers have deployed at least once before, while some have done three or more tours of duty.

 

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