National Guardsmen are deployed

LEXINGTON  – On Mother’s Day, nearly 30 Oklahoma Army National Guardsmen from Detachment 1, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment, 90th Troop Command, bid farewell to their loved ones during a deployment ceremony held at the Muldrow Army Heliport.

The 169th is deploying to Kosovo to provide medical evacuation operations using UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters in support of Operation Joint Guardian, an international peacekeeping mission started in 1999 that seeks to build a secure environment within the Serbian province.

They will be attached to 1st Battalion, 185th Aviation Regiment out of Mississippi.

“We’ll be providing MEDEVAC [medical evacuation] support for NATO and U.S. Forces,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Richardson, commander of the deploying unit.

This is a first deployment for Richardson, who is leaving behind his wife and two children. For him, this being his first deployment, as well as commander is a little nerve-racking, but he is excited and up for the task.

“It’s a huge responsibility,” Richardson said. “It’s stressful, but I’m ready to get out the door and get past this first hurdle.”

One of those hurdles is leaving his civilian job. Richardson is a traditional Guardsman and serves full-time as a police officer for the city of Edmond, Oklahoma. Upon his return to the civilian workforce, he will have been away for nearly a year.

“They’ve been very supportive letting me come up here and get ready for deployment,” Richardson said after spending nearly two months on active-duty orders to prepare for the deployment.

Though the 169th is primarily a medical evacuation unit, while home they also provide fire suppression operations to assist local firefighters during wildfires.

This past year, members of the 169th played a key role in assisting with fire suppression, and will be supplemented by remaining assets in Lexington and Tulsa while away.

From here, the 169th will move onto mobilization training at Fort Hood, Texas before heading overseas.