National Guard Prepare For Iraq

Monday, July 16th 2007, 10:02 am
By: News On 6

Some 2,000 of Oklahoma's National Guardsmen began their training at Camp Gruber this week for a long deployment to Iraq. The 45th Infantry Brigade will be headed to the Middle East early next year. The News On 6’s Steve Berg reports this is the biggest deployment of Oklahoma troops since the Korean War, and it's a long one, one year away from family and loved ones.

Loaded down with close to 80 pounds of gear, the guardsmen are feeling the heat and the pressure of the unknown.

Sgt. Erik Wolff has been to Bosnia, but Iraq is a different animal.

"It goes through my mind, but with the training we receive, I've got confidence in myself, my soldiers, and my leadership,” Wolff said.

Sgt. Wolff says he's also wondering what effect the long deployment will have on his wife and three young kids.

"It's definitely hard to leave my children, but I think it's worth the mission,” said Wolff.

"Just as important as it is to train soldiers, it's important to inform and prepare the families of the soldiers of Oklahoma for this separation,” said Col Mark Pilkington.

Staff Sgt. Andrew Bayang has already been to Iraq and to Afghanistan, when he was active duty. He didn't have to sign up for this trip, but he did because he feels his experience will be valuable to those who have not been before.

"Once we're all over there, just keep focused on your mission, keep focused on your mission, complete your mission, take care of your people, and come on home,” Bayang said.

He also feels strongly about this mission and about America's image with the Iraqi people.

"They still see us as the good guys. And if you're treating these people right, when we get over there, we're pretty much ambassadors of our country, and we want to put a good face on our country, so that the entire world knows that we're here to be the good guys, not the bad guys,” said Bayang.

The Brigade will be at Camp Gruber for a month. Then they have another month of training at an active duty training camp, and then they're headed to Iraq.

Watch the video: Oklahoma Guardsmen Train At Camp Gruber

Three years ago, the News On 6 covered a similar training program by the Oklahoma National Guard at Camp Gruber, click here to watch that story.

Related stories:

7/13/2007 - Oklahoma Guard Troops Prepare For Deployment

7/15/2007 - Oklahoma National Guard Troops Begin Camp