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“We are all one team with the active duty military. There are no such thing as ‘weekend warriors.’ We’re all simply warriors.”


- Senior Master Sgt. Chad Pearce


Louisiana in support of Hurricane Katrina relief operations. Inevitably, long-term separation from families and civilian careers create stress. Lawrence’s two children were 3 years old and 6 months old when he shipped out to Iraq in 2006; they did not rec- ognize him when he returned. Nugent’s son was 9 months old when he de- ployed for an 18-month tour that included ser- vice with multi-national forces in Egypt. His wife placed his photo low on the wall so the boy could look at it and recognize his father when he returned.


Pineda recalls how his unit’s deployment to Iraq resulted in at least six divorces. For Lima, however, deployment ended on a happier note. Various support organizations send basic comfort items to soldiers in combat zones. Lima wrote a thank you letter from Iraq to a benefactor named Monica. They maintained communications and were married upon his return stateside. In order to function properly, a service member overseas needs support from family, friends, and employers. Fortunately, says Petersen of the


Oklahoma Air National Guard, Oklahoma is a “military state” that supports its uniformed volunteers.


“Crowds of people welcome us home from de- ployments,” says Sgt. 1st Class Bennie Brown. “That’s because we’re Oklahoma’s own soldiers.” Organizations such as the OKNG Employment


Coordination Program assist soldiers in returning to their careers or fi nding new ones. Families of deployed soldiers form up to help each other.


High-Tech Training During the New Deal of the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration built armories in small towns all over Oklahoma. Although the National Guard is still a community-based organization, many of these “legacy” facilities have been re- turned to the local government in favor of con- centrated Armed Forces Readiness Centers, such as the large, modern complex in Broken Arrow, Okla., that accommodates not only the National Guard but also reserves from the Navy, Marines, and Air Force. There are now six of these centers,


in addition to two Air National Guard wings in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. In recent years, Oklahoma spent over $300 mil-


lion to build and improve the Camp Gruber training site in eastern Oklahoma, where WWII German POWs were once detained. The complex includes ranges, maneuver grounds, an authentic Middle Eastern-style “combat village,” and ac- commodations to train 3,000 soldiers. “We are not the military we were in the 1960s


and 1970s,” Legler points out. The U.S. military, including the National Guard, has gone high-tech in an age of robots and drones, “smart bombs,” and weapons that literally shoot around corners. Robotic vehicles maneuver on battlefi elds by remote control to rescue casual- ties and fi re on enemy positions. Robots fi nd and excavate buried explosives, while “birds” that ac- tually look and fl y like birds spy on the enemy. At Camp Gruber, the “Engagement Skills


Trainer” is a giant video game in which trainees electronically “fi re” weapons they will use in com- bat. “Enemy” soldiers maneuver, attack, and am- bush from a screen that takes up an entire wall.


23,976 7,000 2,500 $300 19


Oklahoma National Guard individual Soldiers and Airmen deployed


Oklahoma Army National Guardsmen Oklahoma Air National Guardsmen


million invested in Camp Gruber Soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq


Barry Huffman is telecommunications engineering manager for KAMO Power and serves as staff sergeant for the National Guard’s 219th Engineering and Installation Squadron. Courtesy photo


NOVEMBER 2014 17


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