Ok­la­homa sol­diers to de­ploy to Afghanistan again

Tulsa World - - Metro&region - John Klein News columnist john.klein @tul­saworld.com

CAMP GRU­BER — The his­tory of the Ok­la­homa Na­tional Guard de­ploy­ing for mis­sions all over the world goes back nearly 100 years. “All the way back to World War I,” said Lt. Col. Mike Ur­ru­tia. “I think it shows the kind of flex­i­bil­ity we have.”

The Guard is pre­par­ing for its fifth de­ploy­ment to Afghanistan in the past decade. How­ever, the role the sol­diers will fill on this de­ploy­ment is dif­fer­ent than any­thing they have done in the re­cent past.

About 500 mem­bers of the 1st Squadron, 180th Cav­alry Reg­i­ment, 45th In­fantry Bri­gade Com­bat Team are in the midst of train­ing. They are sched­uled to depart in De­cem­ber on a mis­sion to pro­vide se­cu­rity and sup­port to train Afghan Se­cu­rity Forces as part of the NATO-led Op­er­a­tion Res­o­lute Sup­port.

“Our mis­sion will be less com­bat this time, as our mil­i­tary has taken on more of a role as ad­vis­ers,” said Ur­ru­tia, who is from the Ok­la­homa City area. “Our job will be en­sur­ing the se­cu­rity of those ad­vis­ers.”

The new job means new train­ing. The sol­diers be­gan work­ing in the sum­mer at Fort Ri­ley in Kansas. They were mo­bi­lized Oct. 5 for more in­struc­tion at Camp Gru­ber near Braggs.

Fi­nal train­ing will be con­ducted at Fort Bliss near El Paso, Texas.

“Put into foot­ball terms, our train­ing at Fort Ri­ley was like pre­sea­son train­ing,” Ur­ru­tia said. “It was like pre-train­ing, get­ting ready to start more dif­fi­cult train­ing.

“We're now in the train­ing like putting on the pads and hit­ting. When we get to Fort Bliss it'll be the fi­nal tuneup for the game.”

The group will de­ploy from Fort Bliss some­time in De­cem­ber. It is sched­uled to re­turn to the United States next fall.

Ur­ru­tia said the over­whelm­ing bulk of the sol­diers are from Ok­la­homa. This will be the first mis­sion for about 70 per­cent of the group.

“I can't say enough about the mo­ti­va­tion level of the sol­diers,” he said. “There is a real feel of ea­ger­ness and en­thu­si­asm.”

Ur­ru­tia, squad com­man­der of the 180th Cav­alry Reg­i­ment, will be on his fourth de­ploy­ment. He also served in Iraq and two pre­vi­ous mis­sions in Afghanistan.

“We have a proud his­tory here in the Ok­la­homa Na­tional Guard of be­ing one of the most de­ployed,” Ur­ru­tia said. “We have a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence in many dif­fer­ent roles.”

The his­tory of the 180th In­fantry Reg­i­ment dates back to the fall of 1918 as part of the Meuse-Ar­gonne Cam­paign in France dur­ing World War I.

In re­cent years, it has per­formed mis­sions in ev­ery ma­jor con­flict and been de­ployed to help in dis­as­ter re­lief mis­sions, such as a re­cent mis­sion to sup­port re­lief ef­forts in Texas af­ter Hur­ri­cane Har­vey slammed into the Gulf Coast in late Au­gust.

“It shows our di­ver­sity,” Ur­ru­tia said.

This mis­sion to Afghanistan will be an­other new role.

“This is such a dif­fer­ent type of mis­sion for us. We have tra­di­tion­ally done more com­bat-ori­ented mis­sions,” Ur­ru­tia said.

Sol­diers are work­ing through 16 dif­fer­ent tasks be­fore train­ing on mis­sion sets based on the op­er­a­tion.

“We're work­ing on the over­all pic­ture of what we'll be do­ing in Afghanistan,” Ur­ru­tia said. “We have an ex­cel­lent train­ing en­vi­ron­ment (at Camp Gru­ber). We're able to work on in­di­vid­ual skill sets be­fore start­ing to train for our in-the­ater role.”

Ur­ru­tia be­lieves the mis­sion will be more cen­tral­ized and in more pop­u­lated ar­eas of Afghanistan as ad­vis­ers move about the coun­try.

“This is a true tes­ti­mony in an­swer­ing the call,” he said.

Our mis­sion will be less com­bat this time, as our mil­i­tary has taken on more of a role as ad­vis­ers. Our job will be en­sur­ing the se­cu­rity of those ad­vis­ers.” Lt. Col. Mike Ur­ru­tia on the pend­ing de­ploy­ment

MIKE SI­MONS/Tulsa World

Spe­cial­ist Hunter Capers, of Coweta, works on a short-range marks­man­ship drill as mem­bers of the Ok­la­homa Na­tional Guard train for de­ploy­ment to Afghanistan.

MIKE SI­MONS/Tulsa World

Mem­bers of the Ok­la­homa Na­tional Guard train for de­ploy­ment to Afghanistan.

MIKE SI­MONS/Tulsa World

Staff Sgt. Nichael Oakes, of Alva, sleeps while wait­ing to take part in a drill as mem­bers of the Ok­la­homa Na­tional Guard train for de­ploy­ment to Afghanistan. In the fore­ground is Spe­cial­ist Colten Kistler of Al­tus.

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