Staff and Wire Reports
OKLAHOMA CITY -- A 3,500-soldier Oklahoma National Guard has been told to prepare for a possible deployment to Afghanistan in 2011.
The 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team received a "notification of sourcing" from the National Guard Bureau at the Pentagon.
Maj. Gen. Myles Deering, Oklahoma's adjutant general, said the notification does not necessarily mean the brigade will deploy but is a strong indicator it may be called upon. Guard officials said a final decision will likely come in the spring or summer.
The 45th IBCT is the state's largest National Guard element.
The combat team was mobilized in 2007 for a one-year deployment to Iraq. At the time, it was the largest deployment of state guard members since the Korean War.
Jaime Beach is a specialist with the 45th and, a single mother of two.
"Being a single mom, the hardest part for me is to leave, but like I said I always come back," Beach said.
But for now the hardest part will be the uncertainly of whether the brigade will be deployed at all.
"The not knowing is a little annoying, but you have to prepare your family for it as well as yourself," Beach said.
According to the Oklahoma Guard officials, the increased notice of a possible deployment is something they say isn't designed to hurt their soldiers but help them.
"They are trained to expand this time so we have a longer period of time to get our soldiers ready, to get them equipped and get them ready," Deering said.
One of those who will be getting ready is Staff Sergeant Robert Turner, a proud new father.
"It will be tough. My son is just a couple of months old now, so it will be tough on him," Turner said.
If the 45th is deployed, the soldiers could be on the ground in Afghanistan by the summer of 2011.
Gov. Brad Henry made the following comments regarding the announcement:
"This is obviously difficult news for families to hear over the holidays, but the time frame thankfully gives families and individuals time to prepare for the challenges ahead. When called upon by their country, the men and women of the Oklahoma National Guard have responded with decisiveness, courage and steadfast commitment. All Oklahomans owe our troops a debt of gratitude, and they will be in our thoughts and prayers over the many months ahead."