Nearly 700 Minnesota National Guard members are being deployed to Liberia next spring to help fight the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

The citizen-soldiers, part of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division in Rosemount, were tapped by the Defense Department and are expected to be in the West African country for about six months beginning in April.

The Red Bulls will not treat Ebola patients. They will oversee and coordinate military activities that now include the construction of Ebola treatment centers in Liberia, Col. Kevin Olson, spokesman for the Minnesota National Guard, said Sunday.

The humanitarian effort marks a new chapter for the Red Bulls, who previously served in peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Kosovo, and engaged in wartime fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The civilian skills within the division should be a good fit for a mission heavy on logistics, Olson said.

With 2,812 deaths, Liberia is the African country hardest hit by the deadly virus, and in statements released Sunday, Gov. Mark Dayton and Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., each referred to the precautions needed to ensure soldiers return home safely.

That clearly also would be a concern for Red Bulls heading to Africa.

"Because it is a new mission, there is anxiety, but morale is high," said Olson, who has spoken with soldiers. "We are confident in our equipment and in our training, and in the discipline in our force. That will help make sure our people accomplish our mission without putting our nation, our state and our forces at ­unnecessary risk."

The Red Bulls make up a significant portion of the approximately 2,100 Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers being deployed to Liberia and Senegal under an order signed last week by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

The Red Bulls will leave Minnesota in March for pre-mobilization training and then be deployed to Monrovia, Liberia, in April. All troops going to West Africa will receive medical training, and will use special equipment to protect against exposure to the disease.

The Red Bulls will assume command from the 101st Airborne Division based in Fort Campbell, Ky. The 101st has been overseeing construction of Ebola treatment centers, which the Red Bulls will take over when they arrive, Olson said.

"Importantly for the Liberian people, the Minnesota National Guard presence will provide confidence that something can and will be done to stop the spread of disease," Army Maj. Gen. Rick Nash said in a news release Sunday.

National Guard members headed to Liberia are expected to appear at a news conference Monday at the Rosemount National Guard Armory.

Overall, Olson said, they are a confident bunch, and with good reason. "We're versatile," he said. "We're capable."

Said McCollum, "With this deployment to Liberia, our Minnesota Red Bulls will once again have the support and gratitude of the American people. I wish our troops much success in this important humanitarian mission, and their families have my full support."

Anthony Lonetree • 651-925-5036