Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Former Oregon Guardsman returns to Camp Roberts 52 years after basic training to visit with 41st Brigade soldiers

1st Lt. Troy Hakala, (left), with Bravo Company, 141 Brigade Support Battalion, and Multnomah County Sheriff Robert Skipper, talk about Skipper's basic training experience 52 years ago at Camp Roberts, Calif., during a tour of the base to watch the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, including Hakala, of Gresham, Ore., who are training there. Skipper, of Portland, Ore., visited the facility April 14. as part of the Bosslift event. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. BZ Zeller, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

For Multnomah County Sheriff Robert ‘Bob’ Skipper, visiting Roberts as part of the Oregon Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve ‘Boss Lift’ event on April 14 turned out to be a stroll down memory lane.

Skipper, who still has his original National Guard issue stuffed into a duffel bag in the attic of his Gresham home, was at Camp Roberts, in central California once before, under very different circumstances—the year was 1957, and he was going through basic training.

“It was quite an experience,” Skipper said. “To be honest, I could have spent a couple days down there and been interested the entire time.”

Skipper was part of the event sponsored by the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team. The Boss Lift allows civilian employers of National Guard soldiers to visit with their employees who are training prior to a deployment. In this case, Skipper and a group of other employers were flown to Paso Robles, Calif., and then escorted to Camp Roberts, located just south of San Francisco.
The guests toured several training locations and visited their respective employees, who are deploying to Iraq for a year.

Skipper spent the afternoon with 1st Lt. Troy Hakala, one of his deputy sheriffs. Hakala, also from Gresham, Ore., is assigned to Bravo Company, 141st Brigade Support Battalion.
Skipper said he liked the current clothing issue, equipment and training for soldiers at Camp Roberts.

“I was really impressed about the gear they are getting now,” Skipper said. “I was honestly concerned about the cold weather, but the gear they’re getting for Iraq really impressed me. Even the bandages that they have now are fantastic and the medical training they do is top notch. Basically, they are making paramedics out of every officer.”

Skipper enlisted two days before his 18th birthday in March, 1957. Following his graduation from Sandy High School, Skipper was stationed at Camp Roberts and Fort Ord in California, and in Yakima, Wash.

Skipper said when he attended high school, his classmates all knew they were going to join the military.

“A bunch of guys went in the Navy, but I wasn’t ready for that,” he said. “There was a competition between Estacada High School and Sandy to see which school could enlist the most students and it was about a tossup. I stayed in about six and a half years or so.”

Skipper said he ended his service in the National Guard after the start of his law enforcement career and the birth of his daughter.

“I was gone for three weeks during a summer when my little girl was only a one-year old,” Skipper said. “She was used to me playing with her every night and when I came back home, she looked at me like, ‘who are you’?”

Starting as a deputy in 1960, Skipper said he worked up through the ranks including positions with narcotics and as a detective. He was first appointed sheriff in 1989 and then elected later that year. Skipper retired in 1994, but after more than 13 years away from office, agreed to be the standby sheriff in 2008. In November, 2008, he ran for re-election and was voted back to the helm.

Skipper said he has not made a decision regarding his future, following the conclusion of his term next November.“I’m 70, so you have to decide to keep going or step aside for somebody younger,” Skipper said.
Story by Spc. BZ Zeller, 115 Mobile Public Affairs Detachment


Pat Berry said...

My husband trained at Camp Roberts in 1951. I'm trying to find out the name of the basic training co for draftees. patberry3@hotmail.com

Anonymous said...

I was stationed at Roberts 56-59 with the 573rd, Ordinance Co. (DS)
I recall no basic training units on the camp. It was then a USAR/NG summer camp training facility, until CDEC from Fort Ord Moved in late 58-early 59. My unit was a Company. On the post during non USAR/NG or CDEC periods it was only my company, an ammo detachment of 10 EM 1 warrant, civilian workers and a few medics.
My unit was directly under the then 6th. Army, we were supplied by running trucks to Fort Ord and civilian transports Our task was to support the USAR/NG during there training times and to repair broken stuff the rest of the year. Many times we shipped old model track vehicles via the rail that ran into the lower area wher the shops and QM were. Those days the USAR/NG had trains and brought troops and supplys during the training periods. Of my squad I am the last. desertman mail to m6007@yahoo.com