Oklahoma Guard troops deploy to Afghanistan
Tulsa World, Okla.
MCALESTER -- The training ahead of a deployment can be one of the most difficult parts, said Sgt. Sherry Amos.
"I'm ready to get to Afghanistan, get that done and get home," said Amos, a Stigler resident.
By 2013, members of the 1245th Transportation Company of the Oklahoma National Guard will be in northern Afghanistan, with nine months before they can see their loved ones again.
The 115 members of the 1245th said goodbye for now to their loved ones at a deployment ceremony in McAlester on Saturday.
They have a few days to spend with them before the soldiers head to Fort Hood, Texas, to finish their training before heading to Afghanistan.
The 1245th is a medium truck company trained in the Army's Palletized Loading Systems.
It will be transporting supplies and providing security both for itself and civilian contractors.
"You're filling a unique and much-needed role in Afghanistan," said Maj. Gen. Myles Deering, Oklahoma's adjutant general.
Leading convoys can be a dangerous mission, but it's one they have trained heavily for over the past few months at Camp Gruber, said 1245th Commander Capt. James Coffman.
"The threat of (improvised explosive devices) is the biggest thing there," Coffman said.
Training at Camp Gruber has taught the soldiers -- many of whom have deployed before -- how to react and recover to an IED should their convoy encounter one, Coffman said. Their training at Fort Hood will add to that experience, he said.
"It's the crawl, walk, run in training," Coffman said. "They got to the run phase pretty quick.
"This is their second or third deployment for some, so they bring experience to the table."
Sgt. 1st Class Erwin Blue Jr. of Ada is about to leave for his second deployment. He said that experience helped him learn what to do this time to better prepare himself and his family.
"They're supportive and sad to see me go," Blue said. "But they're behind me 110 percent."
Military service is something he was destined to do. His father and grandfather both served in the military.
So his father knows a little about how to adjust to life with a soldier.
"Being a parent, you know how it is," Erwin Blue Sr. said. "I'm proud of him very much. He'll keep his faith in God, and everything is going to be all right."
He hadn't seen his son for months while the unit was training at Camp Gruber.
So he waited at the front with a handmade sign for the 115 soldiers to walk in the large expo center, the bleachers full of families snapping pictures of their loved ones as they came inside.
Now that he's home for a few days, Erwin Blue Sr. said he needed to find some things they can do before his son heads to Fort Hood.
"I'd love to go fishing, but (not with) this weather," he said, wearing a heavy coat.
Amos said she will spend part of these next few days teaching and learning technology with her son, mother and sister.
"I'm trying to teach them how to get on the computer and talk," Amos said.
Internet video chat programs will bring the continents closer together for the family.
But they will still wait to see her in person next fall, just in time for the next holiday season.
"I'll wake up every day and first thing wonder if she's safe, if she's OK," said Amos' sister, Kelly Hokit.
"I'll be OK," Amos said quickly.