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    First wave of Oklahoma Guardsmen return from Ukraine

    First wave of Oklahoma Guardsmen return from Ukraine

    Photo By Capt. Leanna Litsch | Oklahoma Army National Guardsman, Spc. David Riter, member of Echo Company, 700th...... read more read more



    Story by 1st Lt. Leanna Litsch 

    Oklahoma National Guard

    NORMAN, Okla. – “Last week we celebrated the Fourth of July,” said Oklahoma’s Lieutenant Governor, Todd Lamb, during a homecoming ceremony for more than 70 Oklahoma Army National Guardsmen. “Today we celebrate it again with you returning home.”

    The first wave of nearly 250 Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT), returned to their loved ones Tuesday at the Norman Armed Forces Reserve Center in Norman, Oklahoma, after a six-month deployment to Ukraine.

    The 179th was part the first of two six-month rotations in support of the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine (JMTG-U), where they endured the cold temperatures and provided training support for Ukrainian Forces within the U.S. Security Cooperation agreements. Members of 1st Battalion, 279th Infantry Regiment, 45th IBCT replaced the 179th in June to continue the mission and finish out the second half of the rotations.

    “Coming home from a deployment, even a non-combat deployment is something that should not be taken for granted,” said Brig. Gen. Louis Wilham, assistant adjutant general (Army) for Oklahoma as he spoke to the returning Guardsmen. “I’m very glad that these Soldiers here today standing in front of you have made it home safely.”

    Among the crowd of kisses, hugs and smiles was a burst of excitement, when Spc. David Riter, member of Echo Company, 700th Brigade Support Battalion, dropped to one knee and proposed to his girlfriend, Helene, who happily accepted.

    “I was kind of nervous [to propose] and a little bit scared,” Riter said, expressing his excitement to be home with his now fiancé.

    This wasn’t the first experience overseas for several 179th Soldiers, as many deployed with the 45th IBCT to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom from 2011-2012. With the knowledge and experience from those combat veterans, the 179th successfully mentored Ukrainian Soldiers.

    The IBCT received word about the Ukraine mission shortly before their pre-mobilization training began, a mission much more difficult to accomplish without the support of families and employers.

    “I want to thank you for the sacrifices that you’ve made for these Soldiers standing in front of you,” Wilham said. “They can’t do what they need to do without your support and we need them on a daily basis…Lots of people talk about patriotism these days, but our employers who support and employ our National Guard members are true patriots,” Wilham said.

    More than 100 of the remaining 179th Soldiers are scheduled to return home in a couple weeks.



    Date Taken: 07.11.2017
    Date Posted: 07.13.2017 15:37
    Story ID: 240903
    Location: NORMAN, OK, US 

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