OKLAHOMA CITY - More than 800 Oklahoma Army National Guard members bid farewell to their families before beginning a year-long deployment to the Horn of Africa April 15.
The Citizen-Soldiers are part of Task Force Tomahawk, more than 1,000 Soldiers from multiple units across the Oklahoma Army National Guard’s 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, including two companies from both Nebraska and Indiana.
While overseas, Task Force Tomahawk will provide security support at five installations across multiple East African countries. In addition to conventional security operations, the Task Force will staff the East African Response Force.
During the farewell ceremony, Lt. Col. Brent Weece, Task Force Tomahawk commander, charged his Soldiers with remembering the support of family and friends when times are hard overseas.
“When we’re thousands of miles from Oklahoma, when you’re tired, when you’re hot, when you miss home and you think no one cares, remember this arena, remember all the people here today,” Weece said. “Remember the amazing support we have from our family and friends and our state. We couldn’t have greater support than we do from the people here today and from the state of Oklahoma.”
Thousands of family members attended the deployment ceremony, including one very high-profile father saying goodbye to his son.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt joked that his son, Spc. Drew Stitt, an infantryman assigned to Task Force Tomahawk, asked him not to mention him, but he had to tell Stitt how proud he was of him.
“It’s an honor to be here today as the governor to send off the young men and women of Task Force Tomahawk,” Stitt said. “I’m also honored to be here as a father. To each of you deploying, I know your families are very proud of you and love you very much. … On behalf of all 4 million Oklahomans, thank you for your service and your sacrifice.”
Following the ceremony, Soldiers were released to their families to spend time together before departing for post-mobilization training at Fort Bliss, Texas. Once they complete that training, the Soldiers will deploy overseas. They return to Oklahoma next spring.