The Army National Guard is deploying Oklahoma soldiers to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.
Nearly 500 men and women from the 180th Cavalry are preparing to deploy at the end of the year. Between now and then, they have to develop the skills they'll need on the mission. Part of that is firearms refresher training for the 95 percent of the Guard Members who serve part-time.
“It'll be a new experience for me, for sure,” said Specialist Nathaniel Marshell.
Most of the soldiers are leaving on their first overseas deployment and are training on weapons like the M9 and M4, to make sure they're ready.
“To make sure that everybody is up to snuff so when we get there we're not training while it's real. We'd rather make mistakes here so we can flush them out before we get there so nobody gets hurt,” Marshell said.
More than 100 soldiers will be trained as combat lifesavers, and at least one goes on every mission.
Specialist Conner Sullivan said, “We're the medics before the medics are able to get there, help them out, get them off the range.”
The 45th regularly trains at Camp Gruber, usually for the combat they've encountered in many deployments.
“Shots are going to be popping off, the patient is going to be hurting, everybody is going to be yelling because everybody wants to get home in one piece,” Sullivan said.
This time, the 180th has a different goal in Afghanistan, and that's led to more training.
"It's a totally different mission. Before, we had a lot of combat missions on past deployments, but this is more of an advisor force protection, so some of those skill sets are not the same," Lieutenant Colonel Michael Urritia said.
The 180th will train at Camp Gruber through the end of the month. From there, they'll continue training in Texas before deploying overseas at the end of the year.