FORT SILL, Oklahoma (Jan. 13, 2020) -- Hundreds of families packed the Lawton High School gym Jan. 12, to send off A Battery, 1st Battalion, 158th Field Artillery Soldiers during a deployment ceremony.Lt. Col. Charles Neeley, 1-158th FA commander, said the Oklahoma Army National Guard High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) Soldiers have been training for over a year for the mission."I'm really proud of these guys," Neely said. The unit is better trained and equipped than it has been previously.A/1-158th FA holds its monthly battle assemblies at Fort Sill's Armed Forces Reserve Center, said Maj. Geoff Legler, Oklahoma Army National Guard public affairs officer. Virtually all of the deploying Soldiers are traditional National Guard Soldiers, serving one weekend a month, and two weeks active duty per year.The unit received its mobilization orders about one year ago, Legler said. "They've been doing premobilization training at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma."On its deployment the HIMARS unit will provide defensive and offensive capabilities to maneuver (ground) commanders, Legler said.From Lawton, A/1-158th FA will first go to Fort Bliss, Texas, where they will train for about a month before heading to the Middle East, Legler said.Maj. Gen. Michael Thompson, adjutant general for the State of Oklahoma, said his Soldiers are ready for the mission."They are a great group of young men and women, and they've been training hard," Thompson said. "I fully expect them to go out and do a great job."This is the first time (to deploy) for a number of them," the general said. "They joined the Oklahoma Guard to serve their communities, but also to serve the country. That's why we raised our right hand, that's why we take that oath.This is the third deployment for Sgt. 1st Class Steven Stanley, A/1-158th FA platoon sergeant. He said he and others who have been deployed before having been talking to their Soldiers who are deploying for the first time."I tell them to take the training seriously, learn everything that you can, and to ask questions," said Stanley.Thompson thanked the Lawton-Fort Sill community for its support."It's been remarkable," he said. "It lets our Soldiers and their families know that they are appreciated."