Mustang National Guard members continue tradition
By Oklahoma National Guard
More than 20 years ago their fathers left their civilian jobs and put on their military uniforms to help defeat Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Republican Guard. A couple weeks ago the young men of Battery A, 1st Battalion, 158th Field Artillery Regiment, 45th Fires Brigade, Oklahoma Army National Guard, carried on the family tradition of taking the fight to the enemy by firing rockets in Afghanistan against insurgent positions.
In late 1990, 429 citizen-soldiers left Oklahoma for the first Gulf War rather anonymously, but came home heroes. The 1st Battalion, 158th Field Artillery Regiment, was so good that General Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. wrote in an article published in May 1991, “They (Reserve Component Artillery Units) are part of the ground attack, with the Oklahomans achieving the highest rate of fire in Third Army.”
In all, they fired 903 rockets and traveled hundreds of kilometers in support of VII Corps in support of offensive operations that helped lead to an overwhelming U.S. victory.
Since 9/11, the 158th has deployed thousands of soldiers to Afghanistan and Iraq, but none of the deployments had the artillerymen firing rockets, they were all security and convoy support missions. That changed on Oct. 14, 2013, when Battery A deployed to Afghanistan to support Regional Command (South) with a field artillery mission.
The soldiers of Battery A were glad to be deploying with the mission they had trained to do, but for the first few months they found themselves, once again, conducting personal security details, route convoy clearance and entry control point operations. Even though their High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers were set up and ready to fire, they didn’t receive a single fire mission for more than eight weeks.
On Jan. 16 that all changed when Battery A’s 1st Fire Platoon launched two rockets on enemy targets in support of Combined Task Force Duke. The rockets destroyed an enemy communications repeater sight used to support insurgent operations against coalition forces.
The launcher crew included gunner Spc. Joshua Hale of Chickasha, driver Staff Sgt. Steven Stanley of Carnegie, and launcher chief Sgt. Matthew Schoolfield of Ninnekah.
For Hale and Schoolfield, this mission has special meaning as it carries on a tradition started by their fathers during Operation Desert Storm. Hale is the son of Spc. Chad Hale, formerly of Battery B. Schoolfield is the son of Sgt. Richard Schoolfield, formerly of Battery C. The elder Hale and Schoolfield both deployed with the 158th Field Artillery during Operation Desert Storm and fired rockets from their Multiple Launch Rocket Systems.
“The fact that we have soldiers providing fire support in combat in the same battalion that their fathers served with in combat speaks volumes about who we are as the Guard,” said Col. Mike Chase, 45th Fires Brigade commander. “Many units can metaphorically claim to be ‘family’ or a ‘Band of Brothers,’ but as in this case, it’s factual.”
For these men, their efforts in defense of our country will forever be linked through the history of the Oklahoma National Guard, the 45th Fires Brigade and the 1st Battalion, 158th Field Artillery Regiment. They are expected to return home later this year.
The 45th Fires Brigade is headquartered in Mustang.