FOREST LAKE — Pete Hegseth will leave his family for a year, place his studies on hold and step away from a veterans organization leadership position so he can return to the Middle East battlefield.

Hegseth, a 1999 Forest Lake High School graduate, participated in a Minnesota Army National Guard deployment ceremony April 15 at the Rosemount National Guard Armory. His unit will serve as part of a National Training Mission in Afghanistan.

“It’s getting quick for us around here, things are happening fast,” said Hegseth, prior to the deployment ceremony. “We’ll be training the Afghan national army on counter insurgency tactics.”

The National Training Mission will spend time at Fort Dix, New Jersey before shipping overseas. Operations will be centered at the National Military Academy in Kabul, Afghanistan.

 Hegseth, a captain, said unit members will be assigned to various regions in Afghanistan and work with local authorities to contain government insurgents and stabilize the country. The deployment is scheduled for about one year.

“But you never know,” he said. “You have to always be flexible with these things.”

Hegseth called his mission an important step to improving Middle East stability. He said a stable Afghanistan government will help secure the Middle East from insurgent groups like Al-Qaeda.

“It’s difficult to leave,” he said. “But when Uncle Sam says go — you go.”

Hegseth has one semester remaining to complete a masters degree at the Harvard Kennedy School in Boston. He also stepped down from his executive director position at Vets For Freedom, a veterans group that advocates for the success of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In his role with Vets For Freedom, Hegseth has testified in front of U.S. Congress, appeared on national news talk shows and published editorials in the Wall Street Journal.

“I was looking for a way to get back over (to the Middle East),” he said. “I had one opportunity that fell through at the very last minute and then this came along. It has worked out fabulous.”

Hegseth graduated from Princeton University in 2003. He served at the military detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2004 and did a 2005-06 tour of duty in Iraq with the New York Army National Guard.

His wife Samantha and 10-month-old son Gunner will live in the Pittsburgh, Pa., area during his deployment in Afghanistan.

“She’s from the Pittsburgh area so she’ll have family around to help out,” Hegseth said.

Anyone interested in following Hegseth on his mission can sign up for email dispatches at:

Mark Nicklawske can be reached at  or 651-407-1231.

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