Oklahoma's 45th Infantry Brigade welcomes new commander

Col. Van Kinchen, who has spent 29 years in the National Guard, is succeeding Col. Joel Ward, who recently returned to Oklahoma with the unit from Afghanistan.
BY CARMEN FORMAN cforman@opubco.com Published: June 3, 2012
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The Oklahoma National Guard's 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team passed the brigade flag to its new commander Sunday.

Outgoing commander, Col. Joel Ward, will retire in the next few months from the National Guard, and stepped down as the commander of the 45th following its recent deployment to Afghanistan.

The change of command ceremony at the Norman Armed Forces Reserve Center gave a chance for six 45th's battalions to welcome their new commander and honor the outgoing one.

Ward spent 24 years in the Oklahoma Army National Guard and was suceeded by Col. Van Kinchen, who has spent 29 years in the National Guard.

The 45th's recent deployment was the largest for the Oklahoma National Guard since the Korean War, with about 2,200 soldiers sent to Afghanistan and another 800 deployed to Kuwait.

“Our fight cost us dearly,” Ward said.

The brigade lost 14 soldiers during the deployment and gave out 180 purple hearts from their 221 days deployed overseas.

Regardless, Ward said this time of deployment was his proudest as the commander of the 45th.

“Without a doubt it's our mission in Afghanistan, our successful the brigade executed it and also, how the soldiers in the brigade really stepped up, learned how to use the tools of war and used them very effectively on the insurgency in Afghanistan,” Ward said.