Oklahoma soldiers prepare for return to Afghanistan

A group of about 200 Oklahoma National Guard soldiers is preparing for a deployment to Afghanistan. Most have deployed before, and their commander said that experience will help them tremendously.
BY BRYAN DEAN bdean@opubco.com Published: June 18, 2012
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You'll have to forgive Staff Sgt. Cody Wilson if he never unpacked his duffle bag.

Three months after Wilson returned home to Liberty Mounds from a deployment to Afghanistan with the Oklahoma National Guard, he's headed back.

Wilson, 31, and about 200 other members of the 120th Engineer Battalion are training at Camp Gruber near Braggs for a deployment later this summer. They will finish their training at Fort Bliss, Texas, before heading to Afghanistan.

Like many of his fellow soldiers, this isn't Wilson's first deployment. His most recent duty was with the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which sent 2,200 soldiers to Afghanistan from May 2011 to March of this year.

“This is my fourth deployment,” Wilson said. “Deploying several times makes it a lot easier. The families know what to expect. We know what to expect.”

It also makes life easier for the commanders who will send soldiers like Wilson into harm's way.

Lt. Col. Jack Ritter, of Henryetta, is the battalion commander for the 120th Engineers. He said knowing most of his soldiers have deployed before puts his nerves at ease.

“At this point, there are not a whole lot of people in the Guard that haven't deployed,” Ritter said. “You know a little bit of the country. You've dealt with the people before. The confidence level is high.”

Tempering that confidence is the knowledge that previous deployments haven't been bloodless. The 45th lost 14 soldiers during its deployment. The 120th will deploy with several other active duty and Guard units from other states.

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