Task Force Tomahawk: Oklahoma Soldiers Train For Mission In Africa

Nearly 1,000 National Guard members from Oklahoma will soon leave their families, friends and jobs for a deployment to Africa. News On 6's Craig Day flew to Fort Riley, Kansas to get a behind the scenes look at their training.

Wednesday, April 12th 2023, 10:40 pm

By: Craig Day


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Nearly 1,000 National Guard members from Oklahoma will soon leave their families, friends and jobs for a deployment to Africa. They're training for that mission in Fort Riley, Kansas.

"If we're called to go, we have to go. That's just what we do," Specialist Brett Cornman said.

The exercises are intense, the days can be long and physically taxing, but the training is critical as the days are counting down toward the 45th Infantry's deployment.

"You’ve always got to be expecting the unexpected," Specialist Kason Smith said.

"Oklahomans always answer the call when it comes in, every time without fail,” said Lieutenant Cornel Brent Weece. “Couldn't be more proud of them."

Some members of Oklahoma's 244th aviation regiment will deploy to Kosovo in early 2024, but the 45th's deployment is coming much sooner.

For 90 percent of the soldiers, this will be their first deployment. That includes Specialist Brett Cornman, a special education para-professional at an elementary school.

"Of course you're going to be nervous, it's your first deployment, or at least for me it is. But I'm also excited,” Cornman said. “It's a lot of new learning experiences. A lot of new training opportunities; meet new people, travel the world."

During their training, the soldiers are often out in the field for days at a time, taking part in various drills and getting more familiar with equipment.

"I'm glad we got to come up here and use some of this equipment, because it's stuff we don't really have back at home," Specialist Aidan Clancy said.

As part of the multi-national task force, the soldiers from the 45th will provide security support in three East African countries, where extremist organizations threaten stability in the region.

For Staff Sergeant David Woods from Tulsa, this will be his fifth deployment. The last four were in Afghanistan.

"We get to go support the bigger world diplomatic mission and the Oklahoma guard really hasn't got to do that. Most of the time we're doing global war on terror,” Woods said.

In addition to conventional security operations, the Task Force will be part of what's called the East African Response Force, which can react quickly to any crisis.

"At any time something could kick off and we need to be ready to jump into action," Specialist Kason Smith said.

The soldiers go over combat tactics over and over again, and take part in mortar and assault rifle training.

When they leave Kansas, the soldiers from Oklahoma will get a few days to rest and see their families. After that, it's on to Texas for more training before they head out 9,000 miles away to Africa.

The deployment to Somalia, Djibouti and Kenya is expected to last about a year.

"For the people back in Oklahoma, it's important that they know there are soldiers still serving and they're serving overseas, quite a bit of sacrifice for everything they leave behind,” Weece said. “Just so proud they raised their right hands to serve our nation."

"We're ready for it. We're ready for whatever they throw at us," Woods said.

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