About 20,000 people are expected downtown Wednesday to mark the largest deployment of Oklahoma troops since the Korean War.
Some 3,400 members of the Oklahoma National Guard's 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team are preparing to begin training at Camp Gruber, near Muskogee, for deployment to Afghanistan.
Crowds are expected to spill over from the ceremony's main venue in the Oklahoma City Arena into the Cox Convention Center. Organizers suggest friends and family give themselves plenty of time to park, walk and find a seat before the ceremony's 11:30 a.m. start time.
“We're expecting a near capacity crowd, and we are encouraging anyone who wants to attend to arrive early,” Moss said.
“Parking is going to be an issue.”
After the ceremony, most of the troops will head to Camp Gruber.
They will get more training at Fort Polk, La., before they head overseas, likely in June.
Moss said some airmen from the 146th Air Support Operations Squadron also will deploy with the group, along with some smaller units that will act as advisers to the Afghan National Army. The ceremony will include music from the 145th Army Band, as well as several musical tributes to the troops.
Gov. Mary Fallin is scheduled to speak, along with the current state adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Myles L. Deering, and his predecessor, Lt. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III, who is now director of the Air National Guard at the Pentagon. The commander of the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Col. Joel P. Ward, will also speak.
Fallin said all Oklahomans owe the soldiers a debt of gratitude.
“I'm proud to be their commander-in-chief, and I will work to ensure our active duty servicemen and women, our veterans and their families are supported fully,” Fallin said.