Oklahoma’s Task Force Tomahawk Prepares for Africa Deployment
KTUL - April 17, 2023 5:58 am
Oklahoma's Task Force Tomahawk prepares for Africa deployment. (Courtesy of 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team)
TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) — Oklahoma’s Task Force Tomahawk held a ceremony on Saturday, April 15, to commemorate more than 1,000 citizen soldiers’ completion of more than a month of training in preparation for eventual overseas deployment to Africa.
TF Tomahawk is made up of soldiers from multiple units from Oklahoma Army National Guard’s 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, comprised of four regiments within Oklahoma, including Sand Springs’ 279th Infantry Regiment. The task force also includes two companies from the Brigade’s multi-state battalion the 2nd Battalion and the 134th Infantry Regiment.
Soldiers with TF Tomahawk trained on individual and platoon-level tasks including various weapons ranges and squad patrol lanes focusing on individual troop and squad movement.
The training also instructed soldiers in medical, cultural awareness, equipment, and mission-specific training.
The Oklahoma Military Department said that proficiency in these skills is critical for soldiers deploying to provide security support in operations across multiple East African countries.
“The pre-mobilization training allows us to take about 12-18 months of training that the active-duty force does regularly because it’s their full-time job, and we compress it into a short time span of about six weeks,” said Command Sergeant Major John Workman for TF Tomahawk and resident of Glenpool, Oklahoma. “We’re basically turning ourselves into an active-duty Army battalion in about six weeks of training.”
While pre-mobilization training for National Guard units accelerated, TF Tomahawk trainees received comprehensive and in-depth training in each of their respective fields.
“For the Forward Support Company, we’ve been able to slow down our training,” said Captain Katelyn Hartshorn, commander of Hotel Company, 700th Brigade Support Battalion. “I know for my maintenance section, they’ve been able to get quality, in-depth training that makes them feel more confident and proficient in their field.”
In addition to planned training exercises, pre-mobilization training allowed soldiers to face challenges they could potentially face during their overseas deployment.
“Training in a diverse and austere environment is one of the requirements for being in the military,” Hartshorn said. “It prepares Soldiers to be able to push their limits and know what they can do and know what their equipment can do. So being able to train in the more extreme environments gives them more confidence in themselves and their equipment.”
For Staff Sergeant John Appleton, a maintenance platoon sergeant with Hotel Company, training at Fort Riley rather than a more familiar training base like the OKNG’s Camp Gruber in Eastern Oklahoma, forces Soldiers to adapt to new locations, climates, and step outside of their comfort zones.
“It develops resilience,” Appleton said. “Weather changes day to day. It’s part of the Army and you’ve got to ‘Army on’ and continue the exercise. Your Soldiers can understand that no matter what happens, they can still move forward.”
Workman said pre-mobilization training can be difficult, but TF Tomahawk trainees have maintained a high level of morale and motivation.
“Most Soldiers are very excited,” Workman said. “There’s a lot of unknowns and that’s part of the excitement. They want to serve, they want to do their state and nation very proud. They’re very anxious to do that and get started.”
Among the troops preparing to go overseas, there are both seasoned Soldiers with multiple deployments under their belts, and newer Soldiers who are mobilizing for the first time. In addition to comprehensive training, a key component of mission success is collaboration and teamwork.
“The senior enlisted role is to mentor and guide the junior enlisted who haven’t gone through these experiences,” Appleton said. “So we’ve been coaching and trying to help them understand that yes, this may be a scary event that we’re about to go do, but it’s something they can look forward to, that they’re fully capable to complete the mission.”
TF Tomahawk will move to Fort Bliss, Texas for post-mobilization training before heading overseas to the African continent, and will return home in early 2024.
“I just want to say that the leadership of the Oklahoma National Guard and the Task Force are very thankful to the citizens of Oklahoma for providing us their very best,” Workman said. “We’re going to take good care of them and they’re going to do a great job representing our state and nation.”