Saturday, May 30, 2009

New building at Withycombe a tribute to the "Greatest Generation"

Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, The Adjutant General, Oregon National Guard (left), presents WWII veteran, and former 41st Infantry Division member, Leland “Bud” Lewis, with a commemorative plaque at a groundbreaking ceremony for the 41 Armed Forces Reserve Center, held at Camp Withycombe in Clackamas, Ore., May 29. (Photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon National Guard Public Affairs)

Yesterday I blogged about the groundbreaking ceremony for the new 41 Infantry Division Armed Forces Readiness building being built at Camp Withycombe.

Check out Julie Sullivan's story, complete with a very insightful and informative interview with former 41st Infantry Division member, retired U.S. Army Reserve Col. Leland "Bud" Lewis, on the Oregonian website, here.

In the typical humble fashion of his generation, Lewis said the same thing to me that he told Julie. "I guess by default I represent the 41st Division because I'm one of the last ones alive," he said.

"I'm very privileged and proud to be a part of this," Lewis added.

Thank you Julie for reminding me of a very important part of our, and Camp Withycombe's legacy. God bless the 41st Infantry Division, and one of its last representatives, Mr. Bud Lewis.

Posted by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon National Guard Social Media Manager

Friday, May 29, 2009

Training is a dangerous endeavor, but worth it

Photo courtesy of United States Coast Guard

Late today, six members of the Oregon National Guard who were training in the Columbia River were rescued by the United States Coast Guard after their boat overturned. The cause of the mishap is under investigation.

The Oregon National Guard's motto is "Always Ready, Always There". But in order to be ready, we must also train. And training is not without risk.

Emergency Medical Technicians constantly train. There have been numerous times when the Portland Fire Bureau takes junked cars out to their training facility in North Portland, so they can practice using the "Jaws of Life". Their training will come in handy during some holiday weekend when they may have to cut the roof off an accident victim's car in order to save their life.

Recently, the Salem SWAT team trained at Camp Rilea (see our May 6 blog post here). If there is ever a situation where their skills are necessary to save the life of a hostage victim, a lot of people will be glad they took the time to train.

Members of the United States Coast Guard are constantly training. Coast Guard pilots fly numerous training sorties to keep their skills razor sharp. Rescue swimmers brave the frigid waters in Puget Sound so if they ever had to conduct a real-world rescue in rough water, they'd be prepared.

To think that any of this training is not without risk is unrealistic.

When the U.S. Coast Guard showed up to rescue their "brothers in arms" on the Columbia River Bar today, and all six Oregon Guardmembers walked away, I'm sure there was a collective sigh of relief. But the success of that rescue goes back to the training.

Thankfully, "Coasties" also risk their lives training to rescue others. They were there for us when something happened, and it's a pretty sure bet we'll be there for someone else when they need us.

As Capt. Stephen Bomar said, "This is a great example of military services looking out for each other."

The Oregon National Guard has been instrumental in search and rescue missions throughout our state. The most notable occurred in 2002, where Oregon Guardmembers ended up rescuing the rescuers when an Air Force Reserve Pavehawk helicopter crashed while attempting to pull injured climbers off the mountain.

The success of that mission, and the many other rescue missions which have involved the Oregon National Guard (and the lives of the people they save) is owed 100-percent to training--regardless of the dangers.

Posted by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon National Guard Social Media Manager

New Oregon National Guard construction project to create more than 1,300 jobs

(From left to right) Clackamas County Commissioner Lynn Peterson; Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski; Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, Oregon National Guard Adjutant General; Oregon Senator Ron Wyden; and Brig. Gen. Frank Cipolla, Deputy Commander of the 88th Regional Readiness Command, U.S. Army Reserve, toss shovels full of ceremonial earth at a groundbreaking ceremony for the 41 Infantry Division Armed Forces Reserve Center.

The Oregon National Guard hosted a ceremony today commemorating the construction of a new facility at Camp Withycombe in Clackamas, Ore.

The 41 Infantry Division Armed Forces Reserve Center, with a projected cost of more than $74 million, will be the largest facility built by the Oregon National Guard.

The project will generate much needed jobs at a time when the state’s unemployment numbers hover just over 12-percent. Planners say the project will create more than 800 direct construction as well as an additional 525 indirect jobs.

“This (project) will give us 1,300 jobs,” said Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski. “It will be an important boost to our state and local economies during this difficult economic time.”

Kulongoski also highlighted the new building as a positive outcome to the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, which in 2005, threatened to close the Oregon Air National Guard’s Portland Air Base.

“We need to thank the federal government, and especially Senator Ron Wyden for their work, because this is one of the good things to come out of BRAC,” the governor said.

Majority of the cost for the project is funded through the federal government, with $51 million coming from the National Guard. This includes $1.3 million in stimulus funds for storm water management and $21 million from the U.S. Army Reserve. The State of Oregon will contribute another $2.9 million.

Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, The Adjutant General, Oregon National Guard, said the project has historical significance not only because of its dedication to the famed WWII division, but also because it creates a tangible presence in the local community.

“As I’ve said in the past, we’re not at Camp Swampy, we’re on Main Street,” Rees said. “It’s important we have a presence that the community can appreciate.”

“This building is a brick and mortar representation of what the National Guard is all about,” he added.

Some of the original members of the 41st Infantry Division, stand at attention during a groundbreaking ceremony for the 41 Armed Forces Reserve Center, held at Camp Withycombe in Clackamas, Ore., May 29.

The facility is dedicated to the memory of the 41 Infantry Division and its soldiers—a unit which gained recognition for their sacrifice and service during WWII.

Retired 41st Division member, and WWII veteran, Leland “Bud” Lewis, who trained at Withycombe for driver’s school in the early part of WWII, said the building will carry on the memory of his unit long after the members are gone.

“Sometimes it’s hard to see something you remember a certain way go into history,” Lewis said about his old unit. “But this building will honor the division forever. I’m very proud and privileged to be a part of this.”

Kulongoski said while he was happy to see all the planning and hard work come to fruition, he was saddened that the modern evolution of the 41st Infantry Division, the 41 Infantry Brigade Combat Team, couldn’t be here for the ceremony.

“It’s a little sad that they’re not here because they’re part of the legacy of the 41st Division,” Kulongoski said. “But they’re building upon that foundation.”

Indeed, almost 2,600 Oregon soldiers are currently training at Fort Stewart, Ga., prior to a one-year deployment in Iraq.

When complete, the nearly 250,000 square foot facility will be home to more than 1,300 Oregon Army National Guard soldiers and the United States Army Reserve.

The Governor said partnerships between the National Guard and other organizations are increasingly important. He cited the new armory in Eugene, which is shared by Reserve units and the Marine Corps.

“I think it’s a great way to bring the Reserve and National Guard together,” he said. “It’s an investment in Oregon, and in the readiness for both organizations.”

Barrentine Bates Lee, of Lake Oswego, Ore., began the design work on March 24. Construction of the facility has been contracted with Hoffman Construction Co., of Portland, Ore., and begins June 26, with a completion date of Aug 1, 2011.

Posted by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon National Guard Social Media Manager

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Memorial Day takes on new perspective when those being honored, honor someone else

Today's post comes on the heels of Monday's Memorial Day observances throughout the state and the rest of the country.

For retired Oregon Army National Guardmember, Ken Baldwin, Memorial Day was not about being thanked for his service, but about thanking someone else for theirs.

Special thanks to The Oregonian's Mike Francis for bringing this to my attention, and for Claudine San Nicolas for writing the story, which appeared in the May 25th edition of the Maui News.

Veteran gives Purple Heart away

HONOKOWAI, Hawaii -- A Purple Heart war veteran from West Maui has given his medal to a local businessman he believes is worth of recognition.

The gesture by retired Marine and Oregon National Guardsman Ken Baldwin of Lahaina overwhelmed restaurant owner Farzad Azad, founder of Maui's Soldier Appreciation Vacation program.

"It was great," said Azad, a native of Iran, who now operates Java Jazz in the Honokowai Marketplace. "I'm totally overwhelmed."

Azad has invested some $25,000 in a project that involves treating Purple Heart recipients in the Iraq War to a vacation on Maui. So far, Azad has covered expenses for a week's stay for 14 troops in nearly four years.

"I love the United States. I think it's the greatest country in the world," Azad said, adding that his program is a "small" way of staying thank you to U.S. troops for their service and bravery.

Baldiwn, 41, served in the Marine Corps for eight years, with combat tours in Panama and the Persian Gulf. Following his service as a Marine, he enlisted in the Oregon National Guard.

In 2004, Baldiwn's unit deployed for combat duty at Camp Anaconda in Balad, Iraq, with the Hawaii National Guard's 29th Brigade Combat Team. Baldwin sustained injuries in Iraq in 2005, when his vehicle was destroyed by an improvised explosive device.

He filed for medical retirement shortly thereafter and moved to Maui about two years ago with his wife and three children. Baldwin's wife is expecting another child this year.

Now a construction superintendent for Ledzor Construction on Maui, Baldwin lives across from Java Jazz, where he noticed the donation box for the Soldier Appreciation Program. Azad covers most of the costs of treating Purple Heart troops on vacation, but he also solicits support from his business friends and the community at large.

Baldwin said he was touched by Azad's generosity to troops and wanted to thank him by giving him the Purple Heart medal he had received from combat duty.

"I told Farzad how much I respected him. It was just an awesome gesture on his part, and I don't want what he does to be taken for granted," Baldwin said.

He added that if needed, he could ask the military for another Purple Heart medal. Aside from giving his medal away, Baldwin hopes to support Azad's program by approaching local businesses and residents for donations.

"I'm glad to see that veterans have not become old news," Baldwin said. "People still care. Forget the politics. These guys did their job and they did it well."

For more information about the Soldier Appreciation Program, visit:

Claudine San Nicolas can be contacted at:

Posted by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon National Guard Social Media Manager

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day in downtown Portland: Images and thoughts

Here are some of the images and thoughts of Oregon's citizen-soldiers and citizen-airmen who took part in the Rose Festival/Memorial Day March in downtown Portland, on May 25, 2009.

"Memorial Day is very special to me. My grandfather served in WWII. I’d just like the chance to honor veterans who have served." U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Isaac Engle, Bravo Battery, 2-218 Field Artillery, Oregon Army National Guard

"Memorial Day is to honor those who never came home." U.S. Army Cadet Paul Robert Lyon, Officer Cadet, Oregon Army National Guard

"Memorial Day is a way to honor those individuals who served our country, and those that are currently serving our country, defending our freedom every day." U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew Mertz, 142nd Fighter Wing Security Forces Squadron, Oregon Air National Guard

"It’s an honor to be out here to serve, to honor the guys who are serving for us." U.S. Army veteran and Patriot Guard Rider member, Mr. Bill Emera, Gresham, OR

"Memorial Day is to honor those who have fought for our country to give us the freedom we have today, especially those who fell in the line of duty, serving our country, in some of the harshest of times and some of the toughest places in the world." U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kevin Hartman, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, 821 Battalion, Oregon Army National Guard

"Memorial Day is remembering all the past, present and future soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice. I hope as a nation, we never ever forget." U.S. Army Master Sgt. Jerry Glesmann, Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge, Adjutant General's Select Honor Guard, Oregon Army National Guard

"It’s definitely a privilege for us to come here and represent the Oregon Army National Guard on Memorial Day. It’s something that strikes close to home, be it family or friends who are fighting overseas. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend our weekend than to be here taking part in this parade." U.S. Army 1st Lt. Richard Osmer, 102nd Civil Support Team, Oregon Army National Guard

Above: Bill Ray of Estacada, OR, member of the Klamath Tribe and Northwest Indian Veterans' Association. United States Army veteran

"Memorial Day is a time to remember those who have fallen and given the ultimate sacrifice for our country, and honor their memory." U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Angel Smith, HHC 41st Infantry Brigade, Oregon Army National Guard

"This day is a really special time to remember those troops that have gone before us to keep our freedom for the United States." U.S. Army Lt. Col. Alisha Hamel, Joint-Forces Headquarters, Oregon Army National Guard

"To me, Memorial Day means just what we're doing now--getting out and doing a parade, hanging out with our families, honoring my uncle who was killed in Vietnam. It's not about having a barbecue or having a couple of beers with your friends--it's about honoring the people who have come before us." U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Ray Hernandez, First Sergeant, 142nd Fighter Wing Medical Group, Oregon Air National Guard

Check out the rest of our photos on our Facebook album, here.

Posted by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon National Guard Social Media Manager

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Oregon Military Department prepares for lean years

In light of legislative budget proposals for the 2009-2011 biennium, the Oregon Military Department is reviewing cuts it would have to make as the state budget may decrease in the years ahead.

The Joint Committee on Ways and Means proposed a cut to the OMD budget for more than $4.7 million, which is approximately 16.8% of the essential budget level. The cuts could include service, support and operations reductions, four armory closures, and elimination of state personnel positions.

"State funding represents roughly three percent of our overall budget, and that money is used for operations and maintenance," said Brig. Gen. Mike Caldwell, Deputy Director of the OMD. "It's what keeps the armories open."

Caldwell said the effect of closing armories would have a greater and potentially devastating impact on the state as well as municipal and county governments.

"If we have to close armories, the federal government may turn to other states to take missions we could no longer support," Caldwell said.

Federal funds go to the units housed at the armories in order to sustain their mission readiness.
They cover payroll, equipment, construction, and many other fund streams in the state.

"If we lose those missions we lose federal payroll and the tax revenue it brings in, we lose construction money and the jobs it creates, and we lose a large part of our ability to support emergency response," he continued.

The OMD is doing another review of all general funded portions to include the Office of Emergency Management before settling on armory closures.

Caldwell said Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, The Adjutant General, directed him to "turn every stone and look for other alternatives as we cannot close armories."

The OMD is looking at Coos Bay, St. Helens, Milton-Freewater, Burns, Lebanon, Newport, and Redmond armories for possible closure based on their age and location. One of the greatest concerns for the OMD is the impact on soldiers and airmen and the citizens across the state.

A larger concern is for family members of the recently deployed 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team deploying to Iraq, presently training at Ft. Stewart, Ga. Caldwell said.

"Closing armories on family members who use it as a cornerstone for all types of activities while their loved ones are deployed is a terrible thing to tell these brave soldiers while they're half way around the world," Caldwell said.

Karl Jorgenson, Director of Financial Administration for the OMD, said the budget cuts could not have come at a worse time, as 2,500 of Oregon's soldiers head to Iraq.

"Given what we are looking at, we not only could lose armories but we would also be eliminating Emergency Management capabilities except in the more populated areas of the state," Jorgenson said.

The OMD, like all other state agencies, has submitted budget reduction plans reflecting cuts from five to 30 percent of current budgets. The OMD submitted additional options to the Legislative Budget Office which detailed more personnel cuts in lieu of armory closures. Regardless, those cuts would have consequences for the state.

"When you get to these kinds of reductions it's difficult to make everything work," said Caldwell. "Almost everything we do has a federal match of some sort, so when you start harvesting from General Funds, you lose significant amounts of federal dollars that are no longer in the state."

The OMD recognizes the difficulties legislators face and the severe consequences of the proposed budget.

Friday, May 22, 2009

F-15 Fighter flyovers scheduled for Memorial Day, May 25

If you like flyovers by military jets, Monday, May 25th is your day.

The Oregon Air National Guard will salute America's fallen heroes and veterans with flyovers for various ceremonies at locations throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Two F-15 Eagle fighter jets from the 142nd Fighter Wing in Portland and two F-15 Eagle fighters based at the 173rd Fighter Wing at Kingsley Field are scheduled to fly over community events in Portland as well as throughout Oregon and southwest Washington at the following times and locations on May 25.

10:00 Scappoose, OR - Portland Yacht Club
10:10 Portland, OR - Willamette National Cemetery
10:13 Beaverton, OR - Beaverton Memorial Park
10:18 Mt. Angel, OR - Calvary Cemeteries
10:22 Independence, OR - Independence Airport
11:00 Astoria, OR - Ocean View Cemetery
11:00 Klamath Falls, OR - Veteran's Park
11:15 Tigard, OR - Crescent Grove Cemetery
11:15 Eagle Point, OR - National Cemetery
11:25 Woodland, WA - Veteran's Memorial
11:25 Grants Pass, OR - Annual Boatnik ceremony
2:14 Corvallis, OR – Benton County Veterans Memorial
2:26 Reedsport, OR – Hahn Memorial Park
2:37 Glide, OR – Glide Veterans Memorial
3:02 Portland, OR – Water Front Park

All passes will be approximately 1,000 feet above ground level and 350 knots airspeed. Flights could be canceled or times changed due to inclement weather or operational contingencies.

The 173d Fighter Wing has temporarily moved its F-15 student-training mission to Gowen Field, Idaho while the main runway at Klamath Falls undergoes renovation.

The 142nd Fighter Wing maintains continuous alert with F-15's from Portland as part of the Western Air Defense System.

Memorial Day weekend is upon us

Backyard barbecues. Boating with your friends on the Columbia River. Road trips to visit with family. All the stuff that makes for a wonderful holiday weekend.

However you choose to spend this upcoming Memorial Day weekend, please do so with safety in mind.

Please take some time to pause and think about the many uniformed servicemembers, both past and present, who sacrifice their time and energy to defend our nation. Also consider the ultimate sacrifice paid by those who laid down their lives defending the freedoms we enjoy today.

The Oregon National Guard wishes each and every one of you a happy and safe holiday weekend.

Posted by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon National Guard Social Media Manager

PS: Hope to see you all at the Rose Festival/Memorial Day festivities on Monday, May 25 in downtown Portland. Come out and support the citizen-soldiers and citizen-airmen of the Oregon National Guard!

(Editor's note: Special thanks to FlagGazer for letting us "borrow" the comic strip above.)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Oregon Air Guard pilot surpasses 4,000 flying hours in F-15 fighter

Col. James Miller, Wing Commander for the 173rd Fighter Wing, in Klamath Falls, Ore., displays his 4,000 Hour Eagle patch after surpassing 4,000 flight hours in the F-15 Eagle during a training mission at Gowen Field, Idaho, May 5. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Robert Barney)

GOWEN FIELD, Idaho – An Oregon Air National Guard pilot became the third person ever to surpass 4,000 flying hours in the F-15 Eagle, May 5.

Col. James Miller, Wing Commander of the 173rd Fighter Wing at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Ore., reached the milestone in the U.S. Air Force’s premier strike fighter while participating in a training mission at Gowen Field, Idaho.

There are only two others who piloted the F-15 Eagle beyond the 4,000-hour mark; Col. Rich Kelly, also from Kingsley Field, and Col. Jon Kelk of Lambert Field, St. Louis, Mo.

“It’s pretty good company to be with,” Miller said about Kelly and Kelk.
173rd Fighter Wing instructor pilot, Lt. Col. Chris Casson, gives Col. James Miller, unit Wing Commander, a traditional pilot's congratulations, following a training mission where Miller reached 4,000 flight hours in the F-15 Eagle, May 5, at Gowen Field, Idaho. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Robert Barney)

Miller has been flying the F-15 since 1990. He has also flown the T-37 Tweet during pilot training, and has more than 5,000 hours in both the T-37 and F-15 combined. He downplayed the accomplishment, and instead pointed to other pilots’ flight time on various missions.

“I like to think that there are some guys who have a thousand hours, and there are some guys who have one hour a thousand times,” Miller said.

“In my case, I have one hour 4,000 times,” Miller added. “It is definitely a privilege to have been able to fly this airplane this long.”

Miller has flown the F-15 for 19 of his 25 years as a pilot.

The milestone aside, Miller said he enjoys flying and instructing other F-15 pilots.

“I appreciate being able to do my part in producing the world’s finest air-to-air combat pilot graduates,” Miller said. “I’m very fortunate to have had a career allowing me to fly and instruct in the F-15 Eagle.”

Airmen from the 173rd Fighter Wing are conducting training missions at the Idaho facility while the main runway at Kingsley Field undergoes construction. Dubbed “Sentry Displacement”, the project will be completed in about six months.

The Oregon Air National Guard consists of two fighter wings; both the 142nd Fighter Wing in Portland, as well as the 173rd Fighter Wing in Klamath Falls.

The 142nd Fighter Wing conducts the air sovereignty mission over the Northwest sector of the United States, while the 173rd Fighter Wing is one of two active duty U.S. Air Force F-15 schoolhouses in the nation.

Story by Master Sgt. Jerry Bynum,
173rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Oregon’s military members celebrate Armed Forces Day at the State Capitol

Four F-15 Eagle fighter jets fly over the Oregon State Capitol building in Salem, Ore., May 13. The jets, assigned to 142nd Fighter Wing in Portland, flew over the Capitol Mall in honor of Armed Forces Day. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Eric A. Rutherford, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs Office)

SALEM, Ore. -- The Oregon National Guard celebrated Armed Forces Day at the Oregon State Capitol Mall in downtown Salem, May 13.

The annual celebration gives Oregonians an opportunity to see the capabilities of the Oregon National Guard and introduces them to the agencies which support the state and work with federal partners.

During the ceremony, Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski thanked Oregonians in uniform for their contributions and sacrifice.

A highlight of the event was a flyover of the Oregon Air National Guard’s top air superiority fighter. Four F-15 Eagles from the 142nd Fighter Wing broke through the clouds, and flew over the capitol’s dome and the Oregon Pioneer, their sleek dark gray wings silhouetted against the gray, rainy sky.

As a tribute to those in uniform, soldiers from the Oregon Army National Guard’s Bravo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 218th Field Artillery, fired three 105mm Howitzer cannons, filling the Capitol Mall with smoke. Passersby paused to watch, as a thunderous echo reverberated off the buildings in downtown Salem.

Oregon Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Kevin Maries, Logistics NCO for the Counterdrug Support Program, said the event is a chance for people to meet their fellow Oregonians in uniform, but more importantly, for young people to explore opportunities offered by the country’s military services.

“Every member has a number of reasons for wanting to serve,” he said. “Events like this help youngsters develop a sense of duty, loyalty and dedication.”

Several Junior ROTC Color Guard units from area high schools, including an Army unit from Oregon City, a Navy unit from LaPine, and a Marine unit from Redmond, attended the event.

Air Force Junior ROTC Cadet, Melinda Duran, a senior from Henley High School in Klamath Falls, said the event recognizes military members for allowing Americans to enjoy freedom.

“I really appreciate all our armed forces for what they’re doing for us,” she said.

Navy cadet, Ray Graversen, from LaPine High School, just south of Bend, Ore., said events like this bolster the support of the nation’s troops.

“People put flags in front of their house to show support, but anyone can put up a flag,” he said. “This event is more proactive.”

Duran said in addition to thanking current military members for their sacrifices, veterans from yesteryear should also be recognized.

“I would never be ashamed or embarrassed to go up to a WWII or Korea War vet and shake his hand and thank them,” she added.

Duran, received the Gold Medal of Valor in March 2009 for helping to save the life of a fellow cadet, who fell from a 60-foot rappel tower after an equipment malfunction.

Sacrifice, she said, is a big part of being in the military.

“It’s about giving up something, like time or energy for a cause or for someone else,” Duran said.

Oregon Guard soldiers and airmen were on hand to answer questions about the equipment they use and the jobs they perform, but because of the rain, most of the Guard members and attendees retreated under tents and canopies, where displays and booths promoting different groups within the Oregon National Guard were featured.

The 125th Special Tactics Squadron, based at the Portland Air National Guard Base, displayed their combat controller equipment, including their dive recovery boat, while the Counterdrug Support Program featured their light-armored vehicle.

Standing next to the LAV in the Capitol Mall, Maries said the goal of Armed Forces Day is to not just promote the National Guard, but to also help the public understand the benefit Guard members bring to their communities.

“Within Counterdrug, we have the drug-demand reduction program, which speaks directly to middle- and high-school children about drug awareness and avoidance,” he said.

Maries, a 24-year member of the Oregon Army National Guard, said he is privileged to work with his fellow soldiers and airmen.

“The men and women I’ve had the opportunity to work with are phenomenal,” he said. “I’m very proud to wear the uniform.”

United States President Harry S. Truman led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank military members for their patriotic service in support of the country.

On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Days. The single-day celebration stemmed from the unification of the armed forces under the Department of Defense.

Posted by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Social Media Manager, Oregon Military Department

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Groundswell of support for today's military is an opportunity to thank veterans' service

CW5 Michael Zagyva, Command Chief Warrent Officer, Oregon National Guard
In the sixties and part of the seventies all service members who flew had to do so in either Class A or B uniforms.

Having a layover in San Francisco was not a pleasant experience. Members of the Armed Forces were told to head straight to the USO and wait until the last minute to board the plane due to animosity toward military members.

While waiting for a flight from Los Angles to Portland, a young marine returning from Southeast Asia was writing postcards using the corner of a rental car booth. The Marine was approached by several angry members of the agency and asked to leave because his presence in uniform was ‘bad for business.’ Without really understanding why, he quietly left.

In this environment veterans learned very quickly not to mention they were back from war, especially if they were attending a university.

Today, because of the sacrifices of servicemembers, attitudes have changed, not just with the public, but within the military itself.

One of the reasons for this is the formation of the family readiness groups. Members of the family readiness groups have invested a great deal of time and energy to help communities support the deploying soldier.

Now, younger vets are being thanked for their service. That is something we as current servicemembers should take to heart and resolve to thank veterans from previous wars when we have the opportunity.

They have earned our gratitude for what they went through. They have paved the way for today’s soldiers who do not have to deal with the amount of animosity displayed in years past.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Oregon's Adjutant General salutes the members of the 41st IBCT as they deploy to Iraq

Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, The Adjutant General, Oregon National Guard

The mobilization of the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team is well underway. This mighty brigade has successfully completed an arduous training session at Camp Roberts, Calif. and four mobilization ceremonies from Portland to Central Point. The brigade is now transitioning to Fort Stewart, Ga., and is undergoing its final tune-up before heading overseas.

Col. Dan Hokanson and Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Storm have a great team of veterans and first-time deployers. The leadership from brigade commander to squad leader is as strong and accomplished as I have seen in my four decades of service.

Annual training in California enabled the Jungleers to iron out relationships created by moving from rear organization to that required in Iraq. It also helped before deployment by integrating five companies from the National Guard of Delaware, Nebraska, New Mexico and South Carolina.

No greater evidence of their success could be given than the magnificent sunrise Australia and New Zealand Army Corps Day ceremony conducted April 25. Everyone present was awestruck by the professional manner in which today’s heroes honored those of the past.

This is not only the success of the 41st but of a host of dedicated elements. Oregon Joint Force Headquarters, the California Guard, active duty advisors and trainers, Oregon Air Guard and 82nd Brigade personnel all contributed to this world-class training.

Logisticians labored twenty-four hours a day to support the troops. Trainers provided extraordinary experience on tactics, techniques, and procedures that will assure battlefield success. Everyone willingly shared the burden knowing that these eager soldiers would benefit when they were in harm’s way.

I want to specifically thank Col. Todd Plimpton and the 82nd Brigade for sending over 200 volunteers to help fill the 41st Brigade. Additionally, I want to thank Col. Robert Mouw and his logisticians man the “best seen to date” rapid fielding initiative issue sites. Col. Michael Dunn and Col. William Gutheim also managed MEDCOM elements spectacularly in facing myriad medical readiness issues.

We can all be proud of this team effort. The 41st IBCT will represent us well. We wish them Godspeed. But now, we must turn to each other; Army and Air Guard, officer, warrant, and NCO and face the fact that we have many important tasks before us here in Oregon.

Now, more than ever, every Oregon National Guard member here at home must be personally and professionally ready because 2,700 of our finest won’t be in our borders until April 2010. Link arms and lean into the wind.

Thanks for our past success. Thanks for the confidence and courage you demonstrate as we deal with the challenges of the next 12 months.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The photo I wish I took

As a military photographer, majority of the photos I take are... how do I put this delicately... quite pedestrian.

Oh sure, there's the exciting events in which we're involved (like yesterday's post). I shot almost 300 photos on May 5 of the Oregon National Guard's Counterdrug Support Program and their light armored vehicle charging through waist-deep mud puddles at Camp Rilea in Warrenton. Fun stuff.

Sure, events like that make for great photography, but I long for those iconic photos which highlight the "human" aspect of our soldiers and airmen. Perhaps my longing reflects most people's need to connect with their fellow human beings... even if it is through a photo.

Don't get me wrong... I've shot my fair share of portraits, and by default, have captured the range of human emotion, ranging from deep sadness to uncontrolled glee. But those opportunities are few and far between.

That's why when Maj. Mike Braibish brought this photo to my attention, I felt a slight hint of jealousy. While I was happy someone got this photo, I secretly wished I had been the one to push the button.

Above: Husband and wife Leticia and Paul Farrally share a kiss while their 3-month-old daughter Ada sits on her mother’s hip after the Deployment ceremony for Oregon National Guard soldiers to Iraq at Lane Events Center Monday morning.

But photos are nothing without context. This was shot by Amanda Smith of the Eugene Register Guard, at the mobilization ceremony for the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team on May 4. The ceremony was held at the Lane County Fairgrounds' Performance Hall in Eugene. Smith blogged about the event on the Register Guard site. You can read about it here.

And if you liked this photo, check out the others in the series on this link.

I think as we see more images of our Oregon soldiers doing great work around the world, this photo may become an iconic representation of not only the sacrifice of our citizen-soldiers and citizen-airmen, but also the families they leave behind.

If nothing else, this photo is going to stand tall as one of the favorites for this military photographer.

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

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Oregon National Guard Counterdrug team completes inter-agency training with local SWAT members

Members of the Oregon National Guard’s Counterdrug Support Program put their light armored vehicle through its paces at the Rilea Training Site, in Warrenton, Ore., May 5. Soldiers and airmen trained on the LAV with members of the Salem Police during an inter-agency event.

Soldiers and airmen from the Oregon National Guard's Counterdrug Support Program trained alongside officers from the Salem Police’s SWAT unit at the Rilea Training Site in Warrenton, Ore., over the past several days.

Organizers are calling the inter-agency training event a huge success.

The highlight of the training, May 4-8, were the Oregon National Guard’s two Light-Armored Vehicles, or LAVs.

While Oregon soldiers and airmen went through initial and refresher vehicle driver’s training, law enforcement officers from Salem trained on tactical procedures related to the arrest and apprehension of high-risk offenders.

The four Counterdrug trainees learned basic vehicle operations maintenance, and participated in some inter-agency training with members of the Salem SWAT team.

According to Oregon Air National Guard Master Sgt. Keith Moen, Oregon National Guard Counterdrug NCO, the LAVs allow law enforcement access to high-risk offenders they might not otherwise have.

“A lot of law enforcement agencies cannot afford armored vehicles,” Moen said. “We provide that service to them.”

The two all-weather, all-terrain vehicles, which cost the state $630,000 each, were delivered to the Oregon National Guard in 1996. They're designed to protect occupants from small-arms weapons with a thick metal shell. Moen said the vehicles have been used in over 200 law enforcement-related missions.

The vehicle can carry up to eight passengers in addition to a driver and a tactical commander, or “TC”. While many refer to it as a "tank" (and it does look and sound like one), the vehicle can reach freeway speeds of 65mph, and is quite agile considering its size and weight--nearly 25-tons.

Moen said the eight-wheeled, armored vehicle, can be driven just like a large truck, once drivers master some basic procedures.

Master Sgt. Chris Sewell, Intelligence Analyst for the Counterdrug Support Program, and vehicle tactical commander for the training exercise, says Rilea is the perfect place to conduct this training.

“The wide-open spaces, different types of terrain, and the MOUT site give us lots of opportunity to practice,” said Sewell. “Rilea covers everything for us.”

Sewell, who is a member of the Oregon Air National Guard's 142nd Fighter Wing, said the LAV acts as a ‘force-multiplier,’ providing law enforcement with a very effective visual deterrent to high-risk individuals. While it looks like a tank, it’s strictly a defensive vehicle, he said.

“It’s there to provide protection and support to law enforcement,” Sewell said. “But then again, it’s very intimidating."

Pausing for effect, he added with a laugh, "You know it’s going to be a bad day when this vehicle shows up on your property.”

Oregon Air National Guard Master Sgt. Chris Sewell, Counterdrug Intelligence Analyst, guides the Oregon National Guard light armored vehicle through the trails at the Rilea Training Site, in Warrenton, Ore., May 5.

Sewell said there have been instances where dangerous suspects have simply given up as soon as the LAV drives onto their property, even with the SWAT members still inside.

“Law enforcement hasn’t even exited the vehicle, and the bad guys are already giving up,” Sewell said with a chuckle.

Sgt. Mike Johnson, Team Leader, and 16-year member of the Salem Police Department, said working closely with the Oregon National Guard has been rewarding for him and his fellow officers.

“When it comes to the LAV and the crews that drive them, their motivation and professionalism is second to none,” he said.

He adds that the ability for Oregon soldiers and airmen to train alongside local law enforcement officials is important to officers’ safety and to the success of their missions.

“If we didn’t have access to this equipment, we would be putting a lot of our guys at risk,” Johnson said.

Moreover, the ongoing training has built a solid relationship between the agencies, Johnson said. Because training time is so valuable, every minute counts, he added.

“We understand each other’s training regimen, so there’s very little down-time,” Johnson said. “Because we train together on a habitual basis, (the Guard) knows exactly what we need to accomplish.”

Johnson can’t help but highlight the added intimidation factor of having an armored "tank" at their disposal.

“It brings an element of confidence to us, and a little bit of fear to those who are looking out their windows as us,” he said. That’s definitely an advantage to us, and we’ll take any advantage we can to the battle we fight.”

In addition to law enforcement, the LAVs have also been used extensively for search and rescue. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the two LAVs were sent to New Orleans, La., to assist with 9-1-1 emergency calls and rescue operations.

The Oregon National Guard Counterdrug Support Program is also involved in drug abuse awareness throughout the state, and a highly successful Drug Demand Reduction effort in Oregon's middle schools, known as The Guard Adventure Program. To read more about the DDR program, visit here, or see the blog post on March 3, 2009.

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

Monday, May 4, 2009

Oregon soldier pops “the question” following mobilization ceremony

Oregon Army National Guard soldier, Spc. Garen Hart, of Sherwood, Ore., proposes to his fiancĂ©, Melinda Morris, of Portland, following the 41st Brigade Combat Team’s mobilization ceremony at the Portland Coliseum in Portland, Ore., May 2. Hart, and approximately 2,700 other Oregon soldiers will deploy to Iraq for 10 months following pre-deployment training at Camp Stewart, Ga.

While soldiers from the 41st Brigade Combat Team trained and prepared for duty in Iraq at Camp Roberts Calif., Spc. Garen Hart, of Sherwood, Ore., was hatching a plan.

In between mastering soldiering skills in the training lanes with other Oregon soldiers, he collaborated with his commanders on how he would go about proposing to his fiancé, Melinda Morris, of Portland, Ore.

While most men would choose the picturesque Oregon coast, or romantic Multnomah Falls to begin their journey to wedded bliss, Hart chose to pop the big question at the unit’s mobilization ceremony at the Portland Coliseum on May 2.

“I conspired with my command to pull this off,” said Hart with a smile on his face, following the big moment.

The plan was to have Morris come down out of the stands following the brigade’s mobilization ceremony, under the guise that Hart would be receiving an award from his unit’s commander.

But as a throng of military and local news photographers converged on the couple--who stood in front of Hart’s entire unit--instead of readying himself for an award, the soldier dropped to one knee.

“Will you marry me?” Hart asked a visibly shocked Morris. Members of Hart’s unit and bystanders in the stands erupted in cheers and applause.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Morris said, still shaking. “I thought he was the story, and I came down to take pictures of him.”

Hart, who served with the 41st Brigade Combat Team in Afghanistan in 2004 as a medic, is looking forward to this deployment, despite his fast-approaching plans to become a husband.

“I got to do some really rewarding stuff in Afghanistan, so I’m looking forward to this deployment,” Hart said.

The couple plans to officially tie the knot during the soldiers’ 15-days of leave following their training at Camp Stewart, Ga.

“We have quite a bit of planning to do,” Hart said, as he embraced Morris.

Hart, and approximately 2,700 other Oregon soldiers will deploy to Iraq for 10 months following pre-deployment training at Camp Stewart, Ga.

Story by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon National Guard Social Media Manager

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Oregon National Guard kicks off deployment of 41st Brigade with ceremony in Portland

Members of the Oregon Army National Guard’s 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team stand in formation during the unit’s mobilization ceremony at the Portland Coliseum in Portland, Ore., May 2.

The Oregon National Guard’s 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team hosted the first of four mobilization ceremonies at the Portland Coliseum in Portland, Ore., on May 2.

Nearly 2,700 soldiers will depart during the first week in May in preparation for training at Camp Stewart, Ga., prior to leaving for Iraq.

Approximately 1,000 well-wishers, and soldiers’ family and friends joined representatives from federal, state, and local government at the 9:00 a.m. ceremony.

Governor Ted Kulongoski said soldiers could focus on their mission because Oregonians would look after their loved ones in their absence.

Oregon Senator, Ron Wyden (D-OR), echoed the governor’s support, but added that soldiers returning from the deployment would be well cared for.

“We will not have you go from the front line to the unemployment line,” Wyden said to the crowd, which responded to the senator’s comments with applause and cheering.

For many National Guard soldiers, this deployment marks a second, or even third trip to the Middle East. But for some soldiers like Spec. Susan Maxwell of Seaside, Ore., her first deployment is full of mixed emotions.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared,” said Maxwell, who is with the 141 Brigade Support Battalion. “But at the same time, I’m really looking forward to going.”

Other soldiers like Staff Sgt. Brandy Mortenson, of Portland, Ore., have deployed multiple times. This trip marks her third time in the Middle East—two other deployments were with the active duty Army.

“I’m looking forward to the adventure,” Mortenson said. “My family is a little sad, but they understand I serve my country.”

For Staff Sgt. David Gowan, who is with the 2-218 Field Artillery, while this deployment is his first, he said he hopes to employ his many years as an artillery fire direction section chief to help mentor his teammates.

“For me (my goal) is going to be taking care of the guys,” Gowan said. “Watching them grow and mentoring and teaching them, is what I’m going to concentrate on.”

Gowan, who now resides in Portland with is wife and young daughter, is originally from Ukiah, Calif. He said his other goal is to make sure everyone makes it home safe—a sentiment echoed by many of the soldiers.

“We need to make sure we look out for everyone’s mental well-being too,” Gowan said.

The Oregon National Guard has mobilization ceremonies planned throughout the state. According to Oregon Guard officials, the ceremonies in Portland, Bend, Eugene, and Medford give local communities an opportunity to personally send off the soldiers as they depart on what is the largest deployment of the Oregon National Guard since World War II.

Nearly 2,700 soldiers from Oregon and five companies of soldiers totaling 700 personnel from Delaware, Massachusetts, Nebraska and New Mexico will spend about two months training at Camp Stewart, followed by ten months in Iraq.

Story by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon National Guard Social Media Manager