Friday, March 4, 2011
CAMP GRUBER — Gov. Mary Fallin on Thursday told National Guardsmen at Camp Gruber she and Oklahoma state legislators with her held them in high esteem.
“We’re deeply honored to be here,” Fallin said. “We know you’re making sacrifices. We owe you our gratitude. We owe you our respect.”
Fallin and 23 members of the Oklahoma Legislature visited Camp Gruber to learn about its resources, current preparations for deployment overseas, and to watch combat training exercises.
Fallin and the legislators were also given an audio-visual presentation about Camp Gruber’s 33,000-acre facility, its capabilities, and plans for expansion. The presentation also gave an example of economic impact, saying that one of the current training groups has poured $2,192,000 into the local economy. Muskogee leaders at the event included Mayor John Tyler Hammons, City Manager Greg Buckley, Greater Muskogee Area Chamber of Commerce President Sue Harris, OG&E spokesman Al Stevens, and Walmart Manager Mike Ebert.
Afterward, Fallin said she highly values Camp Gruber’s contributions to the state and nation.
“Camp Gruber is very important not only to the training of our soldiers and our war fighters in our war on terror, but it’s also important to our economy,” Fallin said. “It generates almost $2 billion dollars of economic input back into the state of Oklahoma, when people come here to train they spend money here in the local economy. When the contractors come in to service Camp Gruber, they rent hotel rooms and buy food at local restaurants. Camp Gruber not only serves an important mission for our military, but it’s also great for our economy.”
Fallin and the legislators then were driven out to a training ground where soldiers practiced an encounter with enemy combatants in an urban setting.
Sgt. Todd Anderson, 26, with the Headquarters Company First Battalion 279th Infantry, said it meant a lot to him and his comrades to meet top state political leaders at the camp.
“I really think that it’s great that our representatives and our governor take great interest in what we’re doing out here,” Anderson said. “It’s hard for us to leave our families. Some of us wonder if the politicians really have our families’ backs. When we have the governor and the politicians come out here to have an afternoon with us, it just really shows that they care on a much more personal level.”
Anderson said he and his unit will likely be deployed to Afghanistan in early summer. It will be his second tour of duty in the Middle East. With seven years duty in the National Guard, he said he has trained at Camp Gruber several times. Anderson said it is comparable to a larger base in Texas where he also trained. He became interested in military service while a junior in high school.
“I felt like I owed something back to the country after 9/11,” he said. “I went to college for two semesters and decided it wasn’t for me, so I enlisted in the National Guard in 2004.”
By Keith Purtell, Muskogee Phoenix