Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas 1777: Inspiration for today's Guardsman drawn from sacrifices of original citizen-Soldiers

In the past week or so I was struggling with the question of what to post here to commemorate Christmas. I thought, 'How can the hope and good cheer of one day be summarized in a blog post, and strike a chord with our Oregon Guardsmen?'

Then I found it.

As citizen-Soldiers and citizen-Airmen, we only need look back to a certain Christmas in 1777, in a place called Valley Forge, during the infancy of our great country to realize the importance and impact of our collective sacrifice... way back then, and continuing through today.

What follows is a wonderful article by Ethenene Dyer-Jones, a former teacher, turned freelance writer, poet and historian. It was published by the Union Sentinel on Dec. 11, 2008, which lends insight into the hardship and sacrifice of those first citizen-Soldiers, on this day of universal good will.

Many of us have ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War. Whether they were with General Washington at Valley Forge or at Cowpens or King's Mountain or any of the other notable battlegrounds of our War for Independence, they were there to lay down their very lives as the price for freedom.

Let us take a little time to recall Christmas, 1777, during that war…

Christmas in wartime is especially difficult, and so it was at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania in 1777.

"These are the times that try men's souls," wrote Thomas Paine in his well-circulated pamphlet entitled "The American Crisis." His opening line became the pivotal description of the Continental Army that fought against great odds to win freedom.

Indeed, Valley Forge stands as a monument in time attesting to the trying times General George Washington and the Continental Army faced.

Was there any hope for the struggling nation against the British? Was the dream of freedom to be lost amidst the cold, illness, death and deprivation of harsh winter? The Continental Congress had been forced to flee Philadelphia under British occupation. Little hope remained for support or supplies to feed the starving troops.

There they were, twelve thousand tattered troops with their General, George Washington, encamped at Valley Forge. Despite the bitter cold and the seemingly insurmountable odds of disease, starvation and lack of provisions, from this lowest point of the Revolution, the troops were trained and drilled into fighting form. A miracle was taking place as men shuddered in the fields of Valley Forge.

Dr. Albigence Waldo was one of the doctors ministering to the troops at Valley Forge. His diary gives us insight into both the pathos and glimmers of hope of that Christmas, 1777;

"Universal thanksgiving! A roasted pig last night! God be thanked for my health, which I have pretty well recovered. How much better should I feel, were I assured my family were in health. But the same good Being who preserves me is able to preserve them and bring me to the ardently wish'd for enjoyment of them again." (*Dec. 18th, p.88)

On December 25 Dr. Waldo wrote: "We are still in tents."

Of General Washington, Dr. Waldo stated: "He has always acted wisely…His conduct when closely scrutinized is uncensurable. Were his inferior generals as skillfull as himself—we should have the grandest choir of officers ever God made." (*p. 89)

General Washington from his cold tent began a letter to the President of the Continental Congress, tendering his resignation, citing "abandonment to starvation and neglect."

In the midst of his writing, General Washington heard sounds coming from the field. Was it a mutiny, as one of his officers had predicted? He braved the falling snow and bitter wind, going from platoon to platoon where fires glowed, embers sputtering and hissing against the snow.

Pots on the fires at each location gave off strange odors of whatever provender the soldiers had found of wild game to flavor their gruel.

At each location he was met with shouts of "Long live the United States! Hail to our Chief! May Liberty prevail!"

At one stop General Washington asked, "Have you not suffered enough?"

The lieutenant in charge responded, "Having come this far, we can but go the rest of the distance. With you to lead us, we can't lose!"

Washington and his aide made their way back to the General's tent. When they arrived, they found garlands of holly and cedar twined around the marquee that identified the headquarters tent, and draped above the tent-flap door. General Washington took the letter he had started to Congress. He burned it at the fire his aides had built outside his tent. "May God relieve your sufferings, if the Congress will not. And a good Christmas to you!" he said.

I am not sure of the timing, but I like to think that it was at this point that General Washington fell to his knees and prayed at Valley Forge.

He spent the remainder of that winter encouraging and training his troops. By June, 1778, they were ready for an advance against the British.

Christmas, 1777, bleak, comfortless and cold as it was, became a time for building hope.

*[Source material found in Colbert, David, ed., Eyewitness to America . (New York: Pantheon, 1977). "Winter at Valley Forge" by Dr. Albigence Waldo, p. 87-90.]

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Oregon Guardsmen assist Portland Police, community volunteers to help families in need

Freezing temperatures and falling snow wasn’t enough to stop volunteers from distributing holiday food baskets to families throughout the Portland Metro area on Dec. 20.

The annual event, coordinated by the Portland Police's Sunshine Division, gathers together donated food items, which are then delivered throughout the area by community and agency volunteers.

According to Portland Police Detective Bob Clevenger, coordinator for the annual event, approximately 4,000 baskets were prepared for delivery to deserving families.

“These citizens never really get to know us as normal people,” Clevenger said. “So when we go and deliver this food to them, and they baked us some cookies or have a Christmas card for us, it touches your heart.”

Volunteers from the Oregon National Guard, Civil Air Patrol, the Portland Police Bureau, and community members, donated their time and the use of their private vehicles to deliver the food baskets throughout the neighborhoods surrounding the four distribution sites.

Each basket contains enough food to prepare a holiday meal; bread, turkey, and dry goods, which are donated by local businesses and individuals throughout the year. The Oregon Air National Guard assists with transportation and storage, with each of the Portland Police precincts serving as distribution sites. Toys and stuffed animals were also distributed to households with children.

Retired Tech. Sgt.. Bruce Conrad, who retired from the Oregon Air National Guard, said he decided to come back and help out after leaving the 272 Combat Communications Squadron a couple of years ago.

“I think it’s the thing to do. (It) makes you feel good to be involved in the community,” Conrad said.

Conrad and others packed boxes with food items in the weeks leading up to Dec. 20, with much of the work being completed the night before. Volunteers worked out of the Sunshine Division’s warehouse and at the Portland Police’s Northeast Precinct.

Clevenger said the food is important to the recipients, but the most important thing they remember is the act of giving.

“This is the season of giving, and you can’t give any more than giving yourself,” Clevenger said. “These people may not remember the food that was in the boxes, but they’ll never forget that you cared.”

But the giving spirit works both ways, Clevenger said. He cited one example of a volunteer who dropped off a basket to a family who “didn’t have anything”. But they added that the family was very happy in spite of their financial situation.

“(The volunteer) left the house and went right to a nearby store to buy a bunch of toys, and took them back to the family,” Clevenger said. “I think giving is sometimes an attitude we try to perpetuate, but it has an effect on everyone involved.”

If you would like to get involved with the Portland Police’s Sunshine Division and various community giving events, please visit the Sunshine Division’s website at: www.sunshinedivision.org.

Story and photos by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon National Guard New Media Manager

Friday, December 19, 2008

Wills provide important legal protection for Soldier, Airmen families

The Office of the Staff Judge Advocate (OSJA) is committed to providing legal assistance to Oregon National Guard members and their families. The OSJA provides service members with basic estate planning services that include wills, powers of attorney, and advanced directives.

A will tells the court who inherits the deceased soldier’s property. A will is critical to establish important legal protections for a service member’s minor children. These protections include the trusts to ensure the financial security of the service member’s family and guardianships to designate who will raise the service member’s children if both parents die before their children become adults.

A power of attorney allows service members to appoint a person to handle their affairs in the event that they are either unavailable or unable to do so. The designated individual is granted access to the service member’s bank accounts, credit, and can generally conduct financial transactions as if they were the service member.

An advanced directive tells the service member’s doctor what kind of treatment they would like if unable to make medical decisions. An advanced directive helps avoid the financial and emotional strain that occurs when family members disagree on the course of medical treatment for a service member unable to communicate medical decisions.

Service members should review their estate planning documents every five years or in the event of significant life changes to determine whether modifications are necessary.

Basic estate planning services are extended to both service members and their spouses. An appointment with a legal assistance attorney can be scheduled by contacting our offices at (503) 584-3571.

Story by 1LT Michael T. Davis. Lt. Davis is currently serving as the Legal Assistance Attorney at the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate at the Oregon National Guard's Military Department in Salem, Ore. He is a graduate of the University of Oregon School of Law.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Oregon National Guard celebrates homecoming, National Guard birthday, and Community Covenant signing

Yesterday, state, military and community leaders came together to honor Oregon Army National Guard Soldiers returning from duty following a year's deployment in Afghanistan at the Anderson Readiness Center in Salem, Ore.
In addition to honoring the sacrifices and service of these fine Soldiers, the gathering also marked the 372nd birthday of the National Guard -- the oldest military organization in the United States. See related National Guard Bureau story here.

Mr. Mike Hanley, Oregon/southeast Washington service area director for TriWest Healthcare Alliance, presented Maj. Gen. Rees a check for $30,000, on behalf of Oregon's Emergency Relief Fund. The fund assists Oregon's Airmen and Soldiers, and their families during times of need.

But the most significant accomplishment was the signing of the Army Community Covenant by Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski--a document described by Mr. Larry Deibert, Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army, as "a formal commitment of support by state and local communities to Army Soldiers and their families.

“(This) is a gesture designed to develop and foster effective state and community partnerships with the Army and reaffirms the Army’s commitment to Soldiers,” Mr. Deibert said.

Governor Kulongoski, joined Maj. Gen. Rees in welcoming home the members of the ETT, calling the simultaneous covenant signing, National Guard birthday, and welcome home ceremony for the Soldiers, a gift to Oregon.

“Christmas came a little early this year,” Kulongoski said. “We’re blessed to have you home.”

Maj. Gen. Rees reminded the gathering about Capt. Bruno Giancarlo de Solenni, who was killed in September by an improvised explosive device outside Kandahar, Afghanistan.

“The joy we feel today has come at a great price,” Maj. Gen. Rees said.

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived,” Rees said of Capt. De Solenni’s sacrifice, quoting Gen. George Patton.

The group spent a year in Afghanistan advising the Afghan National Army Counter-Narcotics Infantry Battalion, also known as Kandak, on clearing, holding and protecting areas to deny opium operations.

“You had a tough year, but you rose to the occasion,” Maj. Gen. Rees said to the 13 Soldiers in the ETT.

As part of the 372nd birthday celebration for the National Guard, ETT member, Capt. Paul Dyer joined Governor Kulongoski and Maj. Gen. Rees in cutting the birthday cake.

The bulk of the ETT returned to Oregon on Dec. 12. A few members will return home within the next few months. The unit was commanded by Lt. Col. Keith Ensley.

Story by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
New Media Manager, Oregon National Guard Public Affairs Office

Photos by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy and Sgt. Eric Rutherford, Oregon National Guard Public Affairs Office. Multimedia presentation courtesy of Stephanie Yao, Oregonian. To view the Oregonian post, visit here.

Council on Foreign Relations explores Asia-Pacific region partnerships

Greg Bruno, staff writer with the Council on Foreign Relations recently posted an article about the CFR's focus on partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region.

The interview with Admiral Timothy J. Keating, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, explores U.S. military partnerships throughout the Asia-Pacific region, and an emphasis on positive relations between the United States and foreign nations in that area.

What follows is an interesting discussion about the U.S. Pacific Command strategy approved by Adm. Keating, which deemphasizes America's assertive role throughout the Pacific Rim in favor of greater cooperation and collaboration.

To see the entire article, go to: http://www.cfr.org/publication/17994/

To view the U.S. PACOM strategy issued in November, go here:

To share your thoughts on the PACOM strategy or the article, either comment to this post, or visit the PACOM Facebook page discussion , started by Stephanie Carl, here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Oregon Guard explores the communication and networking power of Facebook

According to data posted by ComScore, Facebook surpassed MySpace as the most popular social networking site in June 2008--with more than 132.1 million unique visitors.

For the uninitiated, Facebook is a website that allows users to post information, photos and short, personal "status updates" ("John is thinking about getting a cup of coffee" or "Sally is watching the Oregon State football game"). Others can then view your information and comment on it.

In return, you can comment on their photos, posts, and status. Users can filter their settings to allow only a select group of people to access their profiles--these people are known as Facebook "friends."

Like most of the Internet, real-life social norms don't apply here. People you haven't heard from in over 20 years can now be your friend--including that geeky nerd you dumped in high school--the same one who now earns six-figures working as a software engineer for Microsoft.

For those who are current Facebook users, it's quite addicting. In an article published Dec. 14, the Times Union explored the ubiquitous draw of Gen-X, Y and Z to social networking, calling the site "Crackbook".

But the addiction doesn't stop with current users. Facebook is set up to "recruit" new people and entice others to join your cause, group, or add fun "applications" which are geared toward encouraging users to interact with each other.

Moreover, the site has worked its way into our electronic communications as well. In November, Facebook announced a merger with Twitter, a free social messaging utility which allows subscribers to update and receive status updates to and from their Blackberry wireless devices, or their cellular phones.

Apple, not to be outdone, has incorporated a number of free applications into their iPhone's G3 software which allows real-time multimedia updates to and from social networking sites like Facebook.

As recently as last month, Facebook announced they would be growing from 300 employees to around 700 in 2009, according to author Nick Gonzales of TechCrunch. All this in light of a downturn in the economy and with many other companies who are actually laying people off, Facebook's growth should at least spark some interest from savvy business investors, if not actual users.

I'm not entirely sure Facebook's growing popularity is due to novelty. Sure, there's that... but remember MySpace? There was a time when it was the "site du-jour", and millions of people flocked to, and prayed at, the altar that was MySpace.

But that was then and this is now. And in the interim, MySpace has gone down the proverbial rabbit hole, with teenagers posting drunken party photos, and pedophiles lurking at every turn (MSNBC reported in January on several sex crimes associated with the site in "Why Parents Must Mind MySpace"). Earlier in 2008, Wired Magazine ran a story on a malicious virus which hit MySpace users, allowing teens' photos set to "private" to be downloaded to voyeurs.

Indeed, the creators of Facebook may have learned something from MySpace. Profiles on the site, which can be set to filter out anyone and everyone, appear to be more robust. And while Facebook's target audience appears to be those over 30, the site definitely appeals to the larger demographic of 18-25 year olds. The takeaway? Users (and parents of younger Facebook users) should still probably proceed with caution.

It appears that while Facebook has learned a thing or two about social networking from MySpace's hiccups, the actual users have learned a thing or two as well.

Jennifer Rung, a writer with the Buffalo News, says users have the power to decide who can see your profile and photos, and who can't. She recommends setting up the filters page before posting pictures and entering personal information. Rung has come up with five important points of Facebook etiquette in her article, "Facebook 2.0: New generations sign on", located here.

The benefits for Oregon's citizen-Soldiers and citizen-Airmen, and their friends, families, employers and supporters are obvious. With overseas deployments continuing through 2009, and the mobilization of nearly 3,500 Oregonians to Iraq, online social networking sites like Facebook allow a communications venue never before seen.

Little Johnny took his first steps? Daddy can now view that video from thousands of miles away in an Internet cafe on base. The office threw a big going-away party for Janice? Best friend Sally who is in Baghdad can now see the pictures and hear all about it via Facebook. The bottom line: While you're deployed, life invariably goes on. But defending your country does not necessarily mean missing out on the events which matter most in your life--especially with powerful social networking tools like Facebook.

The same site which is allowing old high school friends to reconnect, or small business owners to market their services to a wider audience can now be used by Oregon's citizen-Soldiers and citizen-Airmen to stay in contact with the people they love back home.

The Oregon National Guard's official Facebook page, located here, was built for that very purpose. Named for Brig. Gen. Owen Summers, who is hailed as Oregon's first "Volunteer", the site features 74 friends (and growing), news and information about the Oregon National Guard, its members, and supporters, and wonderful photos and videos of the great things Oregon's citizen-Guardsmen do throughout the world on a daily basis.

We encourage you to visit the site. If you are not a member of Facebook, please consider joining, then becoming a "friend" of Owen Summers. If you are already a member, be sure to send a friend request. Then stay tuned to this blog for more new media updates and site launches.

Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon National Guard New Media Manager

Saturday, December 13, 2008

National Guard celebrates 372nd birthday; among world's oldest military organizations

The United States is a young country, but four of the oldest military organizations in the world are in our country's National Guard.

The National Guard is celebrating its 372nd birthday this year. On Dec. 13, 1636, the Massachusetts Bay Colony divided its citizen-soldiers, or militia, into the North, South and East Regiments.

The Massach
usetts Bay Colony was seven y ears old in 1636. About 5,000 men, women and children had made the two-month voyage to the New World, leaving the relative comfort and safety of England behind.

In Massachusetts, they confronted a wilderness of dense forests, wild animals and suspicious Indians. The colonists needed a military force for protection, but they had no money to hire a mercenary army, which was common practice in Europe at the time.

So, they tu
rned to the English tradition of the militia; citizen-soldiers who gathered for military training and who could fight when needed. All able-bodied men between the ages of 16 and 60, except ministers and judges were required to join the militia.

By 1636, the militia of the Massachusetts Bay Colony was large enough to be divided into three separate regiments. Today, the military lineage of these 1636 regiments is carried by the 101st Engineer Battalion, the 101st Field Artillery, the 181st Infantry, and the 182nd Cavalry, which are still part of the Massachusetts Army National Guard.

These four units, in one form or another, have been in continuous service since 1636, and are the oldest in the United States Army.

Not many military organizations can claim 372 years of unbroken history.

The Swiss Guards, who protect the Vatican are older (1512), and so its London's Honorable Artillery Company (1537), a unit of citizen-soldiers which is the oldest in the British Army. Amazingly, considering how much older Britain is than the United States, only one other regiment of the British Army, the Royal Scots (1633) predates our National Guard's oldest units.

Much has changed in the U.S. since 1636, but one thing has not--citizen-soldiers still gather to train and deploy as they have for 372 years.

Story by Renee Hylton, National Guard Bureau

Friday, December 12, 2008

Northwest military leaders meet with incoming NORTHCOM deputy chief

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The former chief of the National Guard paid a visit to the Oregon Air Guard, Dec. 10-12.

Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, former chief of the National Guard Bureau, and incoming Deputy Commander for United States Northern Command, met with five states' adjutants general at the Portland Air National Guard Base in Portland, Ore., Dec. 11.

He arrived in the region a day earlier, touring facilities and meeting with leaders at the 173rd Fighter Wing at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Ore.

Lt. Gen. Blum's trip to the northwest was a chance for a handful of states to showcase and discuss emergency response capabilities of the states within the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Region 10, said Col. Donald Bond, Chief of Staff (Army) for the Oregon National Guard.

"This opportunity to have the adjutants general collectively meet with General Blum and to discuss the northwest region's abilities will significantly improve the partnership of these states," he said.

FEMA Region 10 includes the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska. Also attending the meeting was Maj. Gen. John Walsh, the adjutant general of Montana.

The meeting was spearheaded by Oregon's Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, in order to give Lt. Gen. Blum a better understanding of the emergency response capabilities of the states within the northwest region, Col. Bond said.

"And as USNORTHCOM moves forward with (emergency) exercises, hopefully they can look upon this region as a place to conduct these (events)," Col. Bond continued.

According to Col. John Kent, 142nd Fighter Wing Commander, the visit was also a chance to brief Lt. Gen. Blum on the proposal to bring the F-22 Raptor to the northwest region as part of the "Five Corners" initiative.

"It was a great opportunity to have him here," Col. Kent said. "We want to show him what the state of Oregon offers, and in particular, how the 142nd FW supports NORAD and USNORTHCOM, and our air sovereignty support mission here."

Lt. Gen. Blum saw first-hand how the Oregon Air Guard employs F-15 Eagle fighter jets to protect skies over the northwest when he visited the Air Sovereignty Alert Facilities at the Portland Air Base. There, he met with crew chiefs, pilots, and 123rd Fighter Squadron Commander, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Hwang.

"I think Lt. Gen. Blum got a real good look at how we cover all the vital areas in the northwest," Lt. Col. Hwang said. "His itinerary was pretty well packed, so we were honored to have him come out and visit us."

And if he does have a chance to come back to Oregon, he can count on a ride in one of our F-15's, said Col. Kent.

"I plan to put him in the back of an F-15, and show him how it's done in the Air Force," Col. Kent said.

Lt. Gen. Blum's previous assignment was Chief of National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va., where he was responsible for developing and coordinating policies and programs affecting more than a half-million Air and Army National Guard personnel. He will be the first National Guard officer to serve in the role as Deputy Commander of USNORTHCOM.

Story by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon National Guard Public Affairs. Photos by Tech. Sgt. Greg Neulieb and Staff Sgt. John Hughel of the 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office and Capt. Richard Ybarra of the 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

DoD launches Warrior Care Month

The Department of Defense has launched a program designed to educate the military, and to increase awareness of DOD's Warrior Care programs and resources.

Known as "Warrior Care Month", the program will focus on the initiatives and support that DoD provides for military members through the phases of recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration that are integral to the livelihood of wounded, ill and injured servicemembers, and their families.

For those who need information right now, the Wounded Warrior Resource Center phone number is 800-342-9647. For a video presentation about the program, go here.

Links to resources are available on the U.S. Army's Warrior Care website, located here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Oregon Air Guard receives accolades during promotion of deputy IG to rank of major general

The Oregon Air Guard has another bright feather in its cap. And his name is Garry Dean.

Today, during a morning ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Dean, a 13-year member of the Oregon Air National Guard, was promoted to the rank of Major General.

Working with the United States Air Force Inpspector General's Office since February 2008, Dean has brought his expertise in both the active duty forces, and a long history of command experience in the Air National Guard, to the highest halls of the Air Force.

U.S Air Force Inspector General, Lt. Gen. Ronald Sams today, called Dean a "visionary", and a model leader, and referred to his second in command as one of his best "trusted advisors". When pressed about allowing Dean to return to Oregon after his tour is over, Sams quipped, "Can we keep him?"

What does that mean for Oregon? Well, besides one one for our "home team", and representation for Oregon at the highest levels of the Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force, Dean is also a shining example of what can be accomplished by Oregon's citizen-Airmen and citizen-Soldiers.

But for the Air Force, this is a true example of how the total force concept works, and indeed, succeeds.

As the new Air Force Chief of Staff, General Norton Schwartz has said in many interviews and speeches, it is time for our forces -- National Guard, Reserves, and active duty -- to come together and work in a total force process which benefits not only the individual parts, but the entire nation, and indeed the world.

Called a forward-looking visionary by his peers, a great teacher and mentor by his subordinates, and strategic planner and a "man to watch" by his supervisors, Dean is truly the face of our Air Force, and a model of the total force initiative.

Add to this the fact that he is the first African-American two-star general for the state of Oregon. While this shouldn't be the focus of any story, it bears mentioning, given how the new presidential administration has literally changed the face of politics in America. Regardless, there's also no denying Dean's abilities and talents as a commander, Airman, and citizen.

But there's a personal footnote that begs mentioning here. I have personally known General Dean since he was a lieutenant colonel in the Oregon Air National Guard. As many of his colleagues and friends will attest, he is indeed the model Airman, role model, and mentor every National Guardsman is lucky to know.

His promotion to the rank of major general is well-deserved... there's no denying that. His appointment to the IG staff is no fluke... he has the talent, drive and vision to go very far in this organization. But in addition to all those accolades, Maj. Gen. Dean is a trusted friend and all around nice guy, and I am privileged and honored to have worked with him and known him.

Whatever endeavors lay ahead for Gen. Dean after his tour at the Pentagon, Oregon supports and stands behind him. Congrats sir!

Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon National Guard New Media Manager

Friday, December 5, 2008

Secretary of Defense to accelerate Iraq pullout

The Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, will accelerate the pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq.

At least that's the headlines in the news today.

On the one hand, it appears Scty. Gates is towing a company line far outside his party's baseline doctrine. After all, Gates is, for now, the only Republican to stay on with the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama. It appears he is pulling the trigger on the Democratic plan to scale down U.S. troops in Iraq, and to begin closing down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

It's interesting to note that during the briefing he conducted today, Gates acknowledged his unique position in the new Democratic administration — a job he said he didn't necessarily want, but added that it was something he couldn't turn down.

On the other hand, where does that leave organizations like the Oregon National Guard, which next year, plans to deploy over 3,000 Soldiers to Iraq--the largest single deployment of Oregon troops since WWII? The honest answer: The Oregon Guard is still committed to the missions the President feels are important to our national security.

For his part, Gates, who oversaw the buildup of forces in Iraq in 2006-2007, made it clear that he is comfortable with Obama's commitment to the military, saying he is less concerned with the 16-month timetable for the drawdown of troops in Iraq. However, Gates has repeatedly insisted that any withdrawl of troops must be based on Iraq's security conditions, and conducted in a responsible manner.

According to Gates, the situation in Iraq has changed. He cited the new security agreement with Iraq, and the country's call for U.S. troops to be out of the cities by the end of June 2009, and a full pullout before Jan. 1, 2012.

"Commanders are already looking at what the implications of that are in terms of the potential for accelerating the drawdown and in terms of how we meet our obligations to the Iraqis," Gates said. "Nobody wants to put at risk the gains that have been achieved with so much sacrifice on the part of our soldiers and the Iraqis at this point."

The important point of Gates' announcement is not his agreement with the Obama administration's timetable. Nor does it have anything to do with political affiliation.

The Defense Secretary's response when asked by reporters if he had changed his political mindset in order to align with the incoming administration, or if he minded working alongside incoming Secretary of State, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, is a testament to his committment to U.S. troops, and the support of the United States as a patriot.

"You know, the president-elect will be the eighth president I've worked for. And all I can say is I look forward to it," Gates said.

Perhaps the men and women of the Oregon National Guard can look upon Gates' announcement as an example of how we can conduct ourselves. After all, we are committed to supporting the President, and defending the liberties of our state and our nation. Our membership in the greatest organization in the world should be based more on these high ideals, rather than personal or political opinion.

For more on this story, see the AP Newswire story here.

Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon National Guard New Media Manager

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Oregon Guard forms partnership with key South Asian country

The Oregon National Guard recently established a partnership with one of the most populous, and according to the U.S. State Department, one of the more strategically-located countries in South Asia.

On Oct. 25-30, a delegation from the Oregon National Guard visited the country of Bangladesh, and met with senior Bangladeshi military and civilian leaders to discuss a formal partnership between Oregon and the South Asian country.
"This is a chance for Oregon to reach out and share expertise in nation-building and to promote democracy and support foreign policy," said Brig. Gen. Bruce Prunk, Assistant Adjutant General-Air, for the Oregon Air National Guard.

One of the people who spearheaded the effort was Maj. Daniel Schilling, Commander of the 125th Special Tactics Squadron, Oregon Air National Guard.

“The State Partnership Program itself is designed to cross a broader spectrum of military-to-civilian cooperation and civilian-to-civilian cooperation. One of the things the Oregon National Guard brings is the ability to transcend the traditional military-only partnership,” Schilling said.
He went on to cite a prime example of just that kind of cooperation.

“One of our partnership initiatives is an establishment of community policing projects [in Bangladesh],” he said. “We have quite a few members of the Oregon Guard who are sheriffs, police officers and firefighters and we can take these people on military orders over there and work with civil and military authorities to establish these initiatives.”

This new relationship is an historic one said Brig. Gen. Prunk.

"This is the first formal relationship between any country and Oregon," he said. "I think it's very exciting for Oregon to establish a long-term relationship with a very strategic partner."

According to Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, the Adjutant General for Oregon, the Oregon National Guard can benefit from Bangladesh's skills and experience in peacekeeping operations with the United Nations.

"Bangladesh is the second most prolific contributor to UN peacekeeping operations," he said.
Bangladesh is an active member of the Global Peace Operations Initiative, organized by the U.S. Institute of Peace, which is chartered with promoting post-conflict stability and development throughout the world, as well as assisting with amicable resolution to international conflicts.

Another important component to the partnership, according to Maj. Gen. Rees, is Bangladesh's experience with natural disasters. In particular, the Bangladesh government is interested in Oregon's emergency preparedness and response plan, he said.

"We can share information on these capabilities," Maj. Gen. Rees added.

The Bangladeshi partnership comes out of a meeting in early 2008 in Hawaii, between U.S. Navy Admiral Timothy J. Keating, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, and Maj. Gen. Rees, where they discussed a formal partnership between Oregon and Bangladesh.

"Adm. Keating's vision of Bangladesh's strategic role and location was instrumental as a catalyst for the partnership," Maj. Gen. Rees said.

According to both Brig. Gen. Prunk and Maj. Gen. Rees, officials in both Oregon and in Bangladesh are currently outlining key areas they will focus on over the next few years. Another Oregon delegation plans to visit Bangladesh in early 2009 to discuss further details to the partnership.
Story by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon National Guard New Media Manager

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Old mining technology helps Oregon Guard stay "green"

On Monday, I had the chance to see first-hand the remediation efforts going on at the old shooting range at Camp Withycombe in Clackamas, Ore.

Along with my coworkers, Tom Hovie and Kim Lippert, we used the construction area at the post as a backdrop to a video stand-up we were doing for the annual Year In Review video we produce here in Public Affairs.

As I learned more about what was going into reclaiming the land at Withycombe, I became more interested in how the soil was reclaimed, and the national recognition Oregon received for their efforts. What I found was a great example of the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the Oregon Guard.
Using antiquated gold-mining technology, environmental managers were able to remove lead bullets from the soil of the century-old shooting range. The innovative use of an old process saved the taxpayers millions, said Jim Arnold, Environmental Restoration Manager for the Oregon Military Department.

“The majority of savings comes from the cleaning process that takes place on the land itself, and by avoiding the cost of having to transport all of the waste to landfills,” Arnold said.

Withycombe is one of the oldest U.S. Department of Defense rifle ranges in the Western U.S. Until the late 1990s, the range had been used as a training site for hundreds of troops and police officers from around the area, resulting in nearly 300 tons of lead bullets in the soil. According to Arnold, it created a potential environmental concern that needed to be addressed.

“We want to be good stewards of the land,” said Arnold. “The soil remediation process allows us to clean up the area and restore it to its natural habitat,” he added.

The project was five years in the making, starting with a contract between the Oregon Military Department and AMEC Earth and Environmental, with coordination from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

During the soil washing process, contaminated soil is taken through a machine that screens the bullets out of the soil. The soil is then washed through another machine and the bullets are dropped into a bag, resulting in a pile of bagged bullets and a pile of clean soil.

Just before the project began workers uncovered a few surprises.

“When we started, we only had information that small arms were used here,” said Arnold. “But we have found ordnances from World War II, mortar rounds, grenades, and basically everything within the small arms category.”

All ordnance was safely disposed of on site. Throughout the process nearly 14,000 tons of soil has been cleaned and approximately 300 tons of bullets were recovered. The bullets will be recycled and the soil will be reused.

“One of the great approaches of this project is the reuse of materials and sustainable approach,” said Scott Kranz, AMEC Environmental Project Manager. “So often you end up excavating material and shipping off to a landfill, it’s nice to be reusing material.”

In the end, the National Guard Bureau's 2008 Environmental Security Award Program awarded Oregon a first place award in the Environmental Restoration category. The announcement came in October 2008.

Oregon is truly a green state, and with the help of the Oregon National Guard, it's even greener.

Thanks to Kim Lippert for contributions to this post.

Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon National Guard New Media Manager

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Former PSU student body president takes next big step in life and joins the Oregon National Guard

He was responsible for starting the Roots Festival at Portland State University. He also served on the Student Fee Committee and won the highly contentious 2007 election for PSU's student body president.

After completing his one-year term as student body president this past June, Rudy Soto surprised his friends and family by announcing the next step in his life wouldn't be pursuing an internship in Washington, D.C., or even just taking a year to finish up the 43 credits he has until graduation. (photo above: Friends and fellow students congratulate Soto following his 2007 election to student body president).

Instead, Soto joined the Oregon Army National Guard.

Moreover, he signed up for combat duty as a field artillery specialist and left for basic training on Sept. 23. He will be there for nine weeks of basic training, and then another eight weeks for job-specialty training.

"The plan is for me to return from basic training, finish my degree and pursue becoming an officer," Soto said in an interview before he left, adding that he has made a six-year commitment to the military. "The choice that I've made is part of fulfilling who I am and what I need to grow."

While Soto said he has been opposed to the Iraq War from the start, it was this historic presidential election that caused him to start thinking about what he wanted to do with his potential.

"I felt like I wanted it to mean something," he said. "I began to realize how much I appreciated the opportunities I had, and the freedoms. I started to think about how much we take for granted."

If Soto isn't careful, with his personal sacrifices and ambitions, he may end up President of the United States someday.

Excerpts of this blog were taken from Owen Smith's article for the Portland State University student publication, The Vanguard.

Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
New Media Manager, Oregon National Guard