Oklahoma Guard Unit Casualties Raise Questions

Friday, September 23rd 2011, 10:57 pm
By: News 9

Dana Hertneky, News 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Eleven soldiers from the 45th Infantry Brigade have now been killed in battle. It's heartbreaking news to report and has many people asking: "Why?"

A spokesperson with the National Guard says the mission that the soldiers are on is extremely dangerous. The soldiers are involved in head-to-head combat with the insurgency.

In Tulsa Friday, family and friends laid Specialist Chris Horton to rest.

He was the tenth member of the 45th to be killed when his unit came under fire.

"It is my heart's desire to make Oklahoma more aware of our men and women that are serving and are in such a dangerous place," said Horton's mother, Cherie, at the funeral.

The guardsmen are serving in a much more dangerous place than the 45th has typically seen.

"In the past when the brigade has been deployed it's done different missions," said Lieutenant Colonel Max Moss of the Oklahoma National Guard. "They're not nearly as dangerous as the missions the 45th is performing now."

But Moss, just back from Horton's funeral, says that's not to say they're not prepared.

"National Guard is no different then the active component and our soldiers are just as trained of that the active duty soldiers," said Moss said.

"We can't think of them in terms of handing out donuts in tornado disasters," said Steve Russell, a retired lieutenant colonel who served in Iraq. "These are combat forces."

Russell says the soldiers in the 45th aren't just in the infantry but in an enhanced combat brigade.

"There's only 15 of these brigades in the country that do the combat roles to support the active duty military. Oklahoma soldiers are good enough that they are one of those 15 units," said Russell

Still, Moss says morale remains high within the 45th, and the soldiers remain committed to the mission.