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West Fargo father, daughter to deploy

WEST FARGO, N.D. Heather Zimmerman joined the North Dakota National Guard when she was 17 years old, planning to follow her father's footsteps of a life in the military. "It was a few months after 9/11, and I just felt my calling," the 24-year-ol...

Father-daughter Guard deployment
Sgt. Major Alvin Zimmerman, 51, and Specialist Heather Zimmerman, 24, both of West Fargo, are a father and daughter on their first military deployment together, a peacekeeping mission with the North Dakota National Guard in Kosovo. Special to The Forum

WEST FARGO, N.D.

Heather Zimmerman joined the North Dakota National Guard when she was 17 years old, planning to follow her father's footsteps of a life in the military.

"It was a few months after 9/11, and I just felt my calling," the 24-year-old specialist said.

Now, Heather and her father, Sgt. Major Alvin Zimmerman, both of West Fargo, are embarking on their first military deployment together - as part of the 650 North Dakota National Guard soldiers going to Kosovo this fall for a yearlong peacekeeping mission.

Besides being the first deployment with his daughter, Alvin Zimmerman, 51, said this mission offers another type of first for him during his 30 years with the Guard.

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"Normally, my missions in the past have been strictly military-type missions from a tactical aspect," he said. "It's a whole different approach to what we're tasked with doing over there."

For this peacekeeping mission, the North Dakota soldiers will lead a multi-national task force of about 1,400.

North Dakota soldiers - including the Zimmermans - left for Camp Atterbury, Ind., in mid-August and are nearing the end of their training there.

Within the next several weeks, the soldiers will travel to Germany for their final stage of training, before arriving in Kosovo.

The Zimmermans said they have prepared for this mission for more than a year through various training operations - and having that time has made the deployment easier.

"We've had a lot of preparation," Heather Zimmerman said. "We had ample time for goodbyes to prepare everyone and prepare ourselves. I've been looking forward to it."

Alvin Zimmerman said his duties in Kosovo will focus on ensuring international efforts to support local plans to rebuild the government. Meanwhile, Heather Zimmerman will help in escorting foreign dignitaries and officials that visit the soldiers.

"It's been an eye-opening experience for me," Heather said of her training so far. "We've prepared a lot for it and we're ready to step up to the plate and serve of our country."

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Although father and daughter won't be working side-by-side in Kosovo, they said they're grateful to be deployed on the same mission.

"It makes me very proud that I'm able to serve with my daughter," Alvin Zimmerman said.

"It's very comforting," Heather said. "We may not see each other as often as we hope that we would. But even in passing, it's enough just to be able to smile at one another and to have the acknowledgement and the reminder that we are both there and we have one another."

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

Related Topics: CASS COUNTYWEST FARGO
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