Ashli Sims, News On 6
OKLAHOMA CITY -- More than 3,000 of Oklahoma's own are heading to a war zone. It's the largest deployment of Oklahoma National Guard troops since the Korean War.
The 45th Brigade Special Troops Battalion has been called up before. In 2007, they worked security duty in Iraq. This time it's a different war zone, but the same sense of duty and the same anxiety for some families.
A sea of soldiers was surrounded by an arena full of their closest family and friends Wednesday. Soon these Oklahoma heroes will be headed to a war zone, but on Wednesday they were nestled amongst their loved ones for a bittersweet goodbye.
Those who will be left behind breathed through the tears and waved signs of support and love.
Major Michael Dale will be on his third tour of duty. Even though his military mom knows the drill, she says it doesn't get any easier.
"No, not for me it doesn't. But that's being a mom," Sylvia Dale said.
Colonel Joel Ward says the 45th is unique and in demand.
"I think we're responding to the needs of the nation," he said. "The 45th as an infantry brigade combat team is a national little asset. There's a limited number of brigades both on active duty and in the guard. And they need us."
Colonel Ward says Oklahoma's soldiers will be entering a different Afghanistan, one that's getting more stable. But he admits there will be risks.
"All of Afghanistan has security challenges and parts of Afghanistan are more challenged than others," he said. "It just depends. It's province to province, city to city, and even district to district inside the province."
One army wife, who's expecting an Independence day baby, says she hasn't really thought about the danger her husband will face.
"My husband is wonderful at what he does and I'm 100 percent confident that God's going to protect him and his soldiers. And he's gonna leave just like he's supposed to," Tricia Wood said.
So with faith and awful lot of pride, these families cheered their soldiers on, hoping and praying they'll be home safe soon.
The 3,200 soldiers will leave March 1, 2011, for three months of training, before going on to Afghanistan. They're expected to be gone for about nine months.