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Press Release
May 22, 2006
Soldiers Complete Training And Prepare To Deploy
CAMP SHELBY, MISS.- More than 900 Oregon National Guardsmen completed their final phase of training Saturday at Camp Shelby, Miss., in preparation for deployment to Afghanistan in mid-June. They marked the milestone with a deployment ceremony today and Oregon Governor Ted Kulongsoki was on hand.
"The reason I came down here is the pride I take in them," said Kulongoski of his visit with the soldiers. "They are truly the best Oregon has to offer. They are great soldiers and they are great citizens."
This is the largest overseas deployment of Oregon's citizen soldiers since World War II and they have been training at Camp Shelby for nearly four months.
Brig. Gen. Douglas A. Pritt, who commands the 41st Brigade Combat Team, will lead the Oregon soldiers as well as 400 from Oklahoma and others from 32 other states and Puerto Rico.
The unit will deploy on the fifth rotation of Joint Task Force Phoenix and will operate at more than 70 occasions throughout Afghanistan. Their primary mission is to train the Afghan National Army and help the nation develop a vital and sustainable military force.
Pritt was confident Oregon is prepared for the task at hand.
"We march to a destiny yet to unfold but a destiny of greatness because of the soldiers you see before you," Pritt said.
The general also said the soldiers under his command will have two primary challenges with this important mission.
"I think the biggest challenge is going to be developing a meaningful relationship with our Afghan National Army counterparts and, number two, I think aligning all the elements we're going to be in contact with," Pritt said.
He also said the JTF will work with the ANA, Afghan national police coalition partners, non-governmental organizations and other U.S. military forces in the country.
The deployment will keep Oregon soldiers in Afghanistan for at least a year. With this deployment, each of the battalion-size units from Oregon have been tasked for support in Operations Noble Eagle, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
In all, Oregon Guardsmen have filled more than 4,000 individual deployments since September 11, 2001.
Representative Peter DeFazio of Oregon's 4th Congressional District was also on hand for the ceremony.
"Afghanistan has been dominated by foreign interests for centuries, but they now have a shot at freedom," DeFazio said.
The soldiers are now on leave for ten days before they leave the U.S.
Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski addresses soldiers from 34 states and Puerto Rico as they prepare to deploy for a one year tour of duty in Afghanistan. The soldiers completed pre-deployment training at Camp Shelby, Miss., on Saturday and will depart the U.S. in about two weeks. (photo by Spc. Patrick Lair)
Kay Fristad
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Capt Mike Braibish
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