, Muskogee, OK

February 23, 2013

Guard unit gets up to go

Local company bound for eastern Afghanistan

By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer

— BRAGGS — Oklahoma National Guard Sgt. Justine Shahan remembers extremes of Afghanistan weather.

“The winter was bitter cold, with lots of snow and ice,” said the Muskogee woman, who spent part of the last two years north of Kabul, the country’s capital. “Then, in the summer, it got to 120 degrees. This time, when I go, I don’t know if I’ll find as much snow.”

Shahan will join nearly 150 other members of the 1220th Engineer Company on a nine-month deployment to Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan. The company, which has its headquarters in Muskogee, handles horizontal construction – building and demolishing roads and other paved surfaces.

A company deployment ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday at Boulevard Christian Church, 1700 W. Shawnee Bypass. The company’s deployment will begin in March.

During a media day Friday at Camp Gruber, several members of the 1220th  discussed their coming deployment, then demonstrated some of the training and missions they will perform in the country.

Shahan, who works for the Veterans Affairs office, said she would work in communications. “We’ll make sure their radios are working and that they can radio back to headquarters,” she said.

Shahan returned from her previous deployment last March.

“Where we are going is further south,” she said.

Shahan has two sons, ages 15 and 17, who attend Muskogee High School.

“It’s hard to say good-bye,” she said. “But it’s good to know the children are well-taken care of so I can focus on the job over there.”

Shahan said she had been stationed at Gruber for the past few weeks but managed to get time off last Saturday.

“My younger one is not so happy,” she said.

The older son not only is more understanding, he plans to join the armed forces when he graduates.

Capt. Joshua Lawson of Fort Gibson said the deployment would be a deconstruction mission. “We’ll be tearing down bases and training the Afghan National Army,” he said.

The company will be based near Sharana, the provincial capital. The unit will leave Camp Gruber in March for Fort Bliss, Texas, then go to Camp McGregor in New Mexico to prepare for the deployment. The total mobilization time will be about one year.

Lawson, who has been in the National Guard for 19 years, is a trooper with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

“The OHP is short-handed, but we’ll have to deal with it,” he said.

Lawson has four children — ages 4, 9,12 and 13 — in Fort Gibson schools.

“They don’t like it, but  they understand,” Lawson said. “My wife is used to it, and so are my older children.

“My 4-year-old is having issues. He was born the last time I was deployed.”

This will be Lawson’s third deployment. He previously served in Iraq.

He said most of the members of the 1220th are from northeastern Oklahoma, with  some from western Oklahoma.

Lawson said that although the company will be working on demolition, members must be ready for potential attacks.

“You don’t want to be complacent at all,” he said. “We’re all keeping our guard up.”

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or

If you go

WHAT: Deployment ceremony for the 1220th Engineer Company.

WHEN: 10 a.m. Tuesday.

WHERE: Boulevard Christian Church, 1700 W. Shawnee Bypass.