FORWARD OPERATING BASE GAMBERI, AFGHANISTAN - Through five months of a tough deployment, soldiers from Oklahoma's 45th Infantry Brigade have been waiting for this day - Bedlam.
At small combat outposts and large forward operating bases, Oklahoma National Guard soldiers, who were not out on missions, woke up before sunrise and gathered in front of televisions to watch the Armed Forces Network's coverage of the Bedlam matchup.
For Oklahoma guardsmen who have suffered heavy casualties during the first five months of their deployment - 14 have been killed in action since July - the game has been a huge morale boost.
"We've had this and only this for the last month to live on," said SSG Joshua Houston, a Cowboy fan. "No food. No water. Nothing else. Just this game," he joked.
At brigade headquarters, located at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, in Laghman Province, soldiers gathered at the dining facility at 5 a.m. Afghanistan time to watch the game projected on the mess hall's wall.
Captain Andrea Sebree, who describes herself as a third generation Oklahoma Sate Cowboy, showed up 30 minutes early to grab a good seat.
"It's a beautiful sight being able to watch my team," she said.
The crowd of Oklahoma Guardsmen was evenly divided between Sooner and Cowboy fans. Partisans waved their banners after a good play by their team. The soldiers were loud and boisterous and obviously enjoying this respite from the war.
"They've been talking about it the whole deployment. There's not much to look forward to out here," remarked Major Brad Hanna, who serves as the Brigade chaplain. "Unfortunately we'll be hearing about this game long after it's over," he added with a shrug.
The game was played during breakfast at the FOB Gamberi mess hall. A handful of French soldiers who are based alongside the Oklahoma contingent, look bewildered by the Bedlam madness as they tried to eat their eggs and toast.
However, several dozen soldiers missed the game when they were called to participate in an air assault to fight a column of Taliban detected moving through the snow-capped mountains southwest of FOB Gamberi. Twenty-three Taliban were reported killed in the fighting. There were no reports of U.S. casualties.
Large movements of Taliban insurgents through the mountains during snow season is unusual, and the Oklahoma National Guard, along with U.S. Army helicopter gunships and Air Force fighter planes, responded quickly once the alert was given.
Colonel Joel Ward, the 45th's commander in Afghanistan, cancelled his plans to watch the Bedlam matchup and was flown to the site of the operation against the Taliban.
But back at FOB Gamberi's dining hall, soldiers who were not assigned to the operation continued to watch the Bedlam battle in Stillwater.
"It's like Christmas for us," said OSU fan SSG Bobby Roe. "We finally get to go after each other for one day out of the year and this is the day."
For more stories about Oklahoma at War and the Oklahoma National Guard produced by student journalists from Cameron University, Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma go to: http://routes.ou.edu/oklahomaatwar.