Oklahoma Guard Troops Prepare For Deployment

Friday, July 13th 2007, 9:52 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Members of the Oklahoma National Guard's 45th Infantry Brigade will begin training Saturday as more than 2,000 of the brigade's soldiers prepare for an early 2008 deployment to Iraq. About 3,500 soldiers will split time training at Camp Gruber near Muskogee and Fort Chaffee in Arkansas.

The soldiers will fire rifles, mortars and other weapons; undergo physical evaluations, and get paperwork in order ahead of the expected yearlong deployment.

The two-week summer training camp was extended to four weeks, and the soldiers all will qualify on the equipment they will be asked to use in Iraq, said Brig. Gen. Myles Deering, commander of the 45th.

"Each piece of equipment has its own idiosyncrasies," Deering said.

Deering said most of the soldiers will get basic combat lifesaving training to learn how to give emergency care to fellow soldiers who may be wounded.

Commanders began planning for the training camp in January. Deering said the Guard will train about 1,000 more troops than at a usual summer training camp.

Combined with the additional two weeks of training, the camp required much more planning than a typical summer exercise, Deering said.

"It just takes an immense amount of planning, coordination and synchronization to make sure all these parts work together," Deering said.

Col. Pat Scully, a spokesman for the Guard, said the extra large and extra long training camp is not unprecedented. The Guard held a similar camp about six years ago to prepare the brigade for a major training exercise at Fort Polk, La.

One thing working in commanders' favor is that soldiers and their officers understand what they are training for, Deering said.

"When you have a mission that is directly in front of you as we do now, it's easier to get soldiers and leaders focused," Deering said.