SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Department of Defense used the New England Patriots plane to transport troops back to South Dakota who had been deployed to the Horn of Africa, said Ian Fury, the communications director for Gov. Kristi Noem’s office.

A welcome back ceremony for the troops from 196th MEB National Guard unit was held Thursday at the Elmen Center.

The troops were deployed in August of 2020. The S.D. National Guard said 190 troops were expected to be deployed from that unit.

“The (DOD) is using our planes to transport troops,” said Stacey James, the vice president of media relations for the Patriots.

“The plane is used for charter purposes in the off season,” James said.

The Patriots work with a charter service, James said. One of the charter service’s clients is the DOD.

Military vehicles at the Sioux Falls Regional Airport with the 1742nd South Dakota National Guard unit insignia on them were at the airport Thursday afternoon; military members were seen loading equipment back into the plane as well.

Fury said the plane was not scheduled for a “two-way trip.”

Gov. Kristi Noem announced in a tweet on Monday, June 27, that she would be sending up to 50 National Guard troops to the Texas border with Mexico.

Noem said on Tuesday, the deployment will be funded by a private donation. Her office confirmed that the donation was from a Tennessee billionaire and major Republican donor, Willis Johnson. The donation was $1 million.