Story by Sgt. 1st Class Darren D. Heusel, Joint Force Headquarters Public Affairs, Oklahoma National Guard
BRAGGS, Okla. – In the Oklahoma Army National Guard, there’s an old saying, “If it ain’t rainin’, it ain’t trainin’.”
That old adage rang true on Friday, Oct. 12 for more than 100 members of the 1245th Transportation Company, as they went about their pre-mobilization training at the Camp Gruber Military Training Site in preparation for an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Strong thunderstorms brought some heavy rain and lightning to the area, prompting the 1245th Soldiers to postpone their scheduled weapons training for a day or two. But, as most well-lead troops are apt to do, they ventured to an indoor gym to work on their individual physical fitness.
The Soldiers will spend a total of three weeks at Camp Gruber and another six weeks at Fort Hood, Texas, before deploying in late December. They will spend about nine months in Afghanistan.
“This is one of the best groups of Soldiers, non-commissioned officers and officers I’ve ever been associated with,” said Lt. Col. Brad Carter, of Seminole, commander of the 345th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, parent unit for the 1245th.
“The training has been focused and intense and I’m convinced this unit is as prepared to go to war as any unit in the Army – active or Reserve,” Carter added.
The 1245th is a medium truck company comprised of more than 160 Soldiers trained in the operation of the Army’s Palletized Loading Systems. However, the company is down 45 Soldiers because of force reductions, Carter said.
While deployed, the unit will be responsible for transporting supplies throughout their area of operation along with providing security for themselves and contracted civilians.
Capt. James Coffman, of Ardmore, Okla., will be leading the company in Afghanistan, said his troops are a diverse group. Some of his Soldiers have deployed multiple times, while others will be gaining their first overseas experience.
“We definitely have a mixed bag in terms of experience,” said Coffman, who has been the commander for about nine months and a member of the Guard for 10 years. He previously deployed to Afghanistan in 2003 and Iraq in 2005.
Although the unit is based in McAlester, Okla., Coffman said only two of his Soldiers live within a 50-mile radius of the unit’s headquarters. The others come from all over the state as well as a few from Kansas and Texas.
“We’re definitely a diverse group,” said Coffman, who will be leaving behind his wife, Brooke, and two sons, J.T., six, and Kayden, five. “Every Soldier here is really looking forward to the deployment. They’re extremely focused and well trained.
“One of the hardest things I’ve had to do as a commander is let the Soldiers know we had to reduce our overall numbers by 45,” Coffman added. “Most everyone wanted to go and I think that just speaks to the enthusiasm and the dedication of the Soldiers in the unit and of their leadership.”
Spc. Samantha Maddox, 21, of Tulsa, Okla., is preparing for her first deployment and is one of 17 female soldiers in the unit.
“It’s going to be a new experience, that’s for sure,” Maddox said. “But, it’s very important to me. We’re like a family. We spend a lot of time together, so you get to know a lot about each other.”
As for the inherent danger of the mission,” Maddox said, “I’m just hoping for the best, but expecting the worst.”
Another Soldier deploying for the first time is Sgt. Chadwick Chudoba, 24, of Del City, Okla., who will be responsible for the truck crews. He’s been in the Guard for five years and said he’s looking forward to putting his training to good use.
“I’m not trying to have any assumptions about the deployment,” Chudoba said. “I’m just going to take it as it comes. We’ve been spending about every minute of every day conducting some really excellent training and I don’t think we’ve wasted any time whatsoever.”
Chudoba said the most difficult part of the deployment will be leaving behind his wife, Rachel and two young children, son Isaac, four, and daughter Alex, one.
“My daughter doesn’t really know what’s going on,” Chudoba said. “She gets excited when I come home, but she’s not really old enough to grasp what’s going on. It’s like life just goes on with her.
“My son is old enough to understand that I’m going to a foreign country to do an important job. He’s depressed about it, but at the same time, he thinks it’s pretty cool.”
As for his wife, Chudoba said she’s taking the deployment about the same as any other spouse. But, as a prior military service member herself, he said “she’s very understanding.”
The 1245th previously deployed to Iraq in March 2003 and again in 2008 with Oklahoma’s 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
Photos by Sgt. 1st Class Darren D. Heusel, Joint Force Headquarters Public Affairs, Oklahoma National Guard
Video Produced by Master Sgt. Vincent Donaldson, Joint Force Headquarters Public Affairs, Oklahoma National Guard
Traditional Media Release – 1245th Trans Company preps for Afghanistan deployment
Broadcast Quality Video Download – http://www.dvidshub.net/video/158511/1245th-trans-company-preps-deployment-and-visits-with-media