Oklahoma Soldiers Prepare For Middle East Mission At Camp Gruber

Wednesday, September 9th 2009, 5:19 pm
By: News On 6

By Dan Bewley, The News On 6

CAMP GRUBER, OK -- More than a 140 Oklahoma soldiers are preparing to deploy to the Middle East.  The soldiers are from two different units and are spending the next few weeks training for life in a war zone.

It is a first-hand look and preparation for a security detail charged with protecting a unique group of Oklahoma soldiers.  Technically they're called the 1st of the 45th, a team of soldiers specializing in agriculture and business.

The unit of more than 60 Oklahomans is being deployed to eastern Afghanistan.  While their training does include weapons, their mission is to teach the native population different agricultural techniques.  Some are veterinarians, some are beekeepers and Sergeant 1st Class Elizabeth Altebaumer will focus on poultry.

"Feeding techniques, watering, help them get more egg production," said Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth Altebaumer.

The soldiers say they can't wait for the challenge of working the land in a different part of the world.        

"However, one of the biggest things is going to be the elevation difference and because of that, obviously, your crops are going to be done differently. Animals are going to act differently, a little bit of everything," said Spec. Ryan Ellis.

In addition to this agricultural unit and its security detail heading to Afghanistan, another group of 80 Oklahoma soldiers is going to Iraq with a completely different mission.

The Bravo Company air assault team and 1st Lt. Chris Lackey are going to southern Iraq.  Their mission is to provide air support for ground troops.

"You can be nervous and you should be nervous, but I think I'm adequately prepared as far as training goes and a lot of us are, so I think it's good to be nervous," said 1st Lt. Chris Lackey.  "So, if we can continue to have your support, it doesn't matter if there are a hundred guys over there or thousands we still need your guys' support."

Oklahoma National Guard's Bravo Company will deploy later this month and be in Iraq by the first of the year.  The agricultural unit will deploy in late October.