- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 21, 2014

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. (AP) - To many of the men and women of Klamath Falls’ Charlie Troop, their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan is going to be their first combat operation overseas.

While the heat and possible enemy attacks are no doubt worrisome, the hardest part about shipping out might be more personal.

“I’m prepared to do what I need to do, what’s expected of me,” Pvt. 1st Class Aaron Jowell said. “The hard part is leaving the family behind, leaving the kids and wondering what they will be thinking when I’m gone.”

Jowell, while getting ready at Kingsley Field Tuesday afternoon for three weeks of training in Idaho, said he has two sons, ages 1 and 4. While the reality has not sunk in for them that their father might be gone for a year, Jowell said he plans on staying in touch with whatever video chat or social media tool he can use.

“Anything you have access to, use it,” he said. “I heard (the Internet connection is) not the best, but it works.”

Jowell is one of 78 members of Charlie Troop (First Squadron, 82nd Cavalry Regiment, Oregon Army National Guard) set to deploy later this summer. The troop is training in Idaho before coming back to Klamath Falls in mid-June.

From here, they’re moving on to Texas for about three months of training, and then to Afghanistan by early August, with nearly 200 members of their squadron. Their deployment in Afghanistan is currently estimated to last nine months.

The mission they are undertaking is the protection of the Shindand Air Base, a U.S. Air Force facility currently being used to train pilots for the Afghanistan national air force.

Capt. Sergio Soto, Charlie Troop’s commander for the mission, said patrols around and in Shindand are going to be the primary task.

“The environment over there is changing. There’s probably a few missions we’ll be doing. We’ll be training to patrol outside the base. Our main mission is force protection and securing the base.”

Jowell, for his part, said he is looking forward to getting to the mission, getting it done and getting home.

“We’re prepared, and the training will prepare us even better.”

The 78 men and women being deployed are all volunteers, according to Soto. He noted about 20 extended their enlistment so they could participate in the mission.

“All of them are volunteers. I think that’s really a good thing to have. We’re not forcing anyone to go. We actually have people on a waiting list that want to go. About 20 of them, they re-enlisted just to go, extended their commitment just to go,” he said.

Soto said he’s been deployed to Iraq twice. His last assignment also involved base security.

“I guess the main thing is never get complacent, and always try to get better, and instill that in your guys. They need to get better, and you can’t get too good at your job,” he said. “As soon as you get complacent, you drop your guard, and that’s when you can get hurt.”

“It’s a great unit, within our squadron, it’s the premiere unit in the squadron and possibly in the state,” he added of Charlie Troop.

The troop’s training in Texas should help them get ready by conditioning their bodies and their minds on what to expect overseas.

Spc. Montgomery Lemire, who served in Iraq, just north of Baghdad, said soldiers need to hone both of those components. They must be in top shape, as well as mentally prepared for the extremes they might face.

“There’s two sides to it; there’s the physical side, which just comes down to being as fit as possible and acclimated to the terrain you’re going to, which Texas will do a good job of getting us to that point,” Lemire said. “The other part is mental. Guys are going to have to really crunch hard and get their mind right.”

He noted the training in Texas should expose Charlie Troop’s members, especially those who have never deployed before, to the harsh realities they need to wrap their minds around in order to be effective during the mission.

“That will be the first building block on the mental side.”

During his time in Iraq, Lemire said he had to lug more than 100 pounds of equipment around for 17 hours during one mission. One month in the summer, he noted 121-degree temperatures and nighttime lows never dipped below the triple digits.

He said he has been told Afghanistan in the summer is slightly cooler.

“I’m hoping that’s the case. (I’m) just looking forward to getting it done and coming home.”

___

Information from: Herald and News, http://www.heraldandnews.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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