SIKESTON - Sikeston's National Guard unit will pack up and ship out for foreign shores soon, but it won't be the Middle East they are heading to.
The local battalion, the 1140th Combat Engineers, are serving their annual two-week training requirement by going to Panama this year, area National Guard officials confirmed.
"It's a humanitarian mission to help build schools," explained Staff Sgt. Agnes Liley, personnel sergeant for the battalion.
The battalion usually does its two-week mission in the summer. "We usually go in July for our annual training, anywhere from June to July," Liley said. "Usually we do our regular mission at Fort Chaffee or something."
This year, however, a military unit previously scheduled for the Panama mission is being deployed elsewhere, creating the opening and need for a unit.
"We've been to Panama a couple times before," Liley said of her battalion, although it has been about six years since they have been there or trained elsewhere outside the United States.
"It's nice to be able to do something different," Liley said. "It's kind of nice helping out other people. Building schools for the children makes you feel good."
The mission will be completed with six rotations of 60 men each, with some overlap in the 17-day rotations.
The first rotation, from Company A, left Feb. 7, and Company A's second rotation left Friday morning.
"We have a unit getting ready this weekend for the third and fourth rotations," said Liley, "from Company B."
National Guardsmen from Sikeston, which is part of Company C, will take on the last two rotations.