FORT BRAGG


Oklahoma Cavalry unit says farewell before upcoming deployment

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Story by CPT Leanna Litsch on 10/25/2017
MOORE, Okla. Family and friends said farewell as their Soldiers heed the country's call to deploy to Afghanistan at a farewell ceremony at the First Baptist Church of Moore, Oklahoma, on October 25, 2017.

Nearly 500 Oklahoma Army National Guardsmen from 1st Squadron, 180th Cavalry Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, will deploy in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel, as part of the NATO-led train, advise and assist mission Operation Resolute Support.

"It's a totally different mission," said Lt. Col. Michael Urrutia, commander of the Squadron. "Before we had a lot of combat operations on past deployments, but this is more of an adviser force protection mission."

The ceremony comes after the squadron completed their pre-mobilization training at Camp Gruber Training Center, near Braggs, Oklahoma.

The pre-mobilization training requires a multitude of Army Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills to be successfully performed and completed in order to move onto follow-on training. Some of those tasks include Combat Life Saver certification, individual and crew-served weapons qualifications, land navigation, combatives, various squad to platoon-sized exercises, and more.

"Classroom instruction is great, but really this (the field) is where you learn," said Headquarters Troop member, Spc. Justin Creasman, during CLS certification. "I know that if something happens to me, my buddies will get me home."

Though this deployment will be the first for many, they will have the guidance and mentorship from combat Veteran peers, some of whom have deployed multiple times.

"It's essential that leadership at all levels share their experiences with these Soldiers who are deploying for the first time," said Capt. Christopher Butler, a logistics officer in charge for the Squadron and soon-to-be deployed for the fourth time. "The guidance and mentorship that we provide will help ensure these Soldiers are able to integrate and adapt both when we get into theater and upon our return to our families."

Before units move onto follow-on training, members of the Pre-mobilization Training Assistance Element oversees and ensures all required training is complete.

"We provide guidance so we can make sure units are ready to go and ready to deploy overseas," said 1st Sgt. Jared Campos, member of PTAE. "This training is extremely important because you want to be ready now if there are any types of mistakes that are made, you make them here instead of overseas."

When the unit's initial notification was announced, preparation immediately began with filling all required personnel positions and ensuring each Soldier was deployment-ready.

Most of the Soldiers deploying are traditional Guardsmen who serve one weekend a month and two weeks per year unless called upon by their state or nation. In this case, the train-up for the deployment means more time away from loved ones and civilian jobs, which without their support, the National Guard couldn't operate as an operational force.

Some of those civilian employers were invited to Camp Gruber, providing them an opportunity to witness that service and sacrifice their employee makes for both state and nation as a Soldier.

"What we do here is truly a passion," said Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Apala, command sergeant major for the Squadron. "It's great that you're here to share that with us because if these Soldiers didn't have a place to go back to, they wouldn't be here today. It's that kind of support that you provide."

Members of the 180th will spend a few days at home before moving onto Fort Bliss, Texas, to complete follow-on training.

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