Stillwater News Press

Local News

March 29, 2011

Stillwater sendoff set for deploying Oklahoma National Guard soldiers

STILLWATER, Okla. — Members of a deploying Oklahoma National Guard unit will be met with flag-waving and cheers on their way out of Stillwater Wednesday.

The Stillwater-based First Battalion, 179th Infantry Regiment is set to deploy to Afghanistan as part of the Oklahoma National Guard’s 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in early summer. Members of the unit leave Stillwater Wednesday to conduct additional training before the deployment.

The unit’s buses are scheduled to leave the Stillwater National Guard Armory on Airport Road at about 8 a.m. and travel south on Washington Street to Main Street before heading west on S.H. 51. Area residents are invited to line Main Street in Stillwater from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Wednesday to show support as the unit passes on its way out of town.

The deployment represents the largest the Oklahoma National Guard has seen since the Korean War. The brigade expects to return in spring 2012. During the deployment, the brigade will conduct full-spectrum operations, meaning it will handle all military operations in a given region. Its tasks will include counter-insurgency operations and construction projects. Members of the brigade also will act as advisers to the Afghan military and federal police force.

Staff Sgt. Michael Casteel, of Stillwater, said he appreciates the support he and his family have received from the community in the weeks leading up to the deployment. Casteel, a truck driver for Company E of the 1-179th, said he takes comfort in the fact that his wife and children will have help while he is away.

“It makes everything so much easier,” he said.

In civilian life, Casteel works as a patrol officer with the Stillwater Police Department. The Stillwater police, as well as other law enforcement organizations from around the area, have made a list of contacts for Casteel’s family to call on if they need support.

The deployment will be Casteel’s second. His wife, Crystal, said the fact that she’s been through one of her husband’s deployments before makes it easier to prepare for the next one. She has a better idea of what to expect and is better able to prepare her children for their father’s absence, she said.

Still, she said, it’s difficult to prepare for certain aspects of the deployment. Although the level of communication between troops in the field and their families at home has improved in recent years, it still isn’t ideal. In certain parts of Afghanistan, soldiers still won’t be able to call or email their families, she said.

And even when Casteel is in contact with his family, it still isn’t a substitute for having him home, she said.

“The hardest thing is just not knowing,” she said.

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