Families said their goodbyes Thursday to one set of Fort Sill soldiers who won't be enjoying Christmas at home with their loved ones.
Some of the 80-plus soldiers from the Headquarters and Headquarters Battery of 75th Fires Brigade (FiB) have already left, and the 70 who stood in formation at the deployment ceremony will be heading over before Christmas, according to Col. Alfredo Najera, commander of the 75th FiB.
"We'll depart and get settled in so after the holidays we'll be ready to hit the ground running," Najera said.
Najera, who is going with them to command the headquarters for several elements, said the deployment is for nine months to a year. Their mission is twofold. One part will be a standard field artillery mission, as they have been tasked to provide command and control for surface-to-surface fires throughout the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) area of operations. The other part is to build partner capacity in the region, helping U.S. allies and coalition forces achieve the same end regarding surface-to-surface fires.
They will be working for the Army component of CENTCOM in four or five of the 29 countries that CENTCOM covers.
The group includes everything from soldiers on their first deployment to soldiers on their eighth, he noted.
"We've got a wide range of experience. It'll be a great learning experience for first-time soldiers," he said.
Najera got the alert order 2 months ago. CENTCOM saw a requirement for a fires brigade headquarters to coordinate operations of a number of units working independently. It had been three years since the 75th FiB last deployed, so it was in the available pool.
Some special training was required for the mission. Although field artillery is one of the Diamond Brigade's core competencies, Najera said 75th FiB solders have been doing everything but artillery skills for a number of years.