Oklahoma National Guard Troops Begin Camp

Sunday, July 15th 2007, 1:50 pm
By: News On 6

BRAGGS, Okla. (AP) _ Oklahoma National Guard soldiers have arrived at training camps in eastern Oklahoma and in Arkansas to begin preparing for deployment to Iraq. Guard commanders expect more than 2,000 soldiers from Oklahoma will be deployed to Iraq early in 2008.

About 4,500 soldiers and their equipment arrived by convoy Saturday at Camp Gruber near Braggs and at Fort Chaffee, Ark., for the monthlong camp. Those at the training camp understand the need for preparation, said Capt. Gene Mastin, an assistant training officer with the 45th Infantry Brigade's 179th Infantry.

``It's going to be kind of like a Friday night in the fall in Oklahoma _ guys are going to be suited up, and it's going to be exciting,'' Mastin said.

Sgt. 1st Class Rohn Fenity said it was challenging to make sure that the convoys arriving at Camp Gruber and Fort Chaffee did not block traffic on nearby Interstate 40. The soldiers will travel between the two locations during the training.

Normally, all the training for Guard troops is done at Camp Gruber, but military officials said it is not large enough to handle the number of soldiers undergoing training during this camp.

Guard officials have worked long hours in preparing for the training camp, Mastin said.

``You can have 12-hour days seven days a week if you want to, because obviously we are going to be here for an extended period of time,'' Mastin said. ``You have a lot of coordination at both locations.''

One of the sites at Camp Gruber is for combat medical training, at which soldiers will be taught how to stop bleeding, clear airways and give intravenous medication. For three days, soldiers will go over the different skills.

``On the fourth day we are going to give them scenarios, and they are going to come out here and run through those scenarios with what we taught them the first three days,'' Staff Sgt. Stephen Roberts said.

Other areas of focus will include spending time on the camp's shooting range and practicing urban combat.