Oklahoma Soldiers on Alert

11-29-05 - They were among the first to help with recovery efforts after hurricane Katrina, and now Southern Oklahoma guardsmen are answering the call of duty again this time overseas.

For the past three weeks, the entire 180th battalion out of Durant has been on alert, and now it's not a matter of if these 500 soldiers will go to Afghanistan but when.

The pictures bring back the memories for Captain Shane Riley. He returned from Afghanistan about a year ago.

"It was amazing, the people were great to work with, they were dedicated to rebuilding their nation and the idea of having a free country," Riley said.

He teamed up with the Oregon National Guard to help with Task Force Phoenix. Their main focus was training the Afghan Army.

"They're tough people," Riley said. "They've brave, not hesitant to put themselves in harms way, it was an honor to be over there working w/ them."

And now his entire battalion could be doing the honors as well. THe 1-180th Division of the 45th Infantry Brigade out of Durant were put on alert three weeks ago. More than 500 guardsmen from Durant to Poteua are awaiting their orders which could come any day.

The plan is to team up with the Oregon National Guard, which already has soldiers in Kagul to help train the Afghan army. This only comes one month after dozens of soldiers of the 1-180th returned from New Orleans, and just like that Mission of Relief, Riley said this mission is just as important.

"I hope right now folks see the good things going on in Afghanistan," Riley said. "We're doing good things in that country. I was thrilled to be there, we're doing something that's worthwhile."

It's only the second time since the Korean War that the entire 180th Battalion has been put on alert. Riley said if their Battalion is mobilized, the majority of the soldiers will be going.

It's not for sure how long they'll be there. It could be anywhere from six months to a year and a half. The soldiers will go through about two months of special training at Camp Shelby in Mississippi.