Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Letter to "Grown-up Girl" a testimonial to National Guard program's success

On March 3, I blogged about a program run by the Oregon National Guard Counterdrug Support Program which helps empower middle school children to make positive decisions in their lives.
To read the original post, go here.

During the two days I spent with Sgt. Karissa Gratreak and her fellow soldiers and airmen at Gardner Middle School in Oregon City, I saw them not only mentor and teach the youngsters, but also build lasting friendships. The 'paradigm shift' the team was hoping for in many of the students was obvious.

Last week, Lt. Col. Stephen Deptula, commander of the Counterdrug Program, sent me a handwritten note from one of the students at Ogden Middle School--also in Oregon City--which the team visited the week after they finished up at Gardner.

Ogden Middle School student Emily Anderson, was so fascinated by Gratreak's ability to juggle being a mom (she had given birth to a baby girl in 2008), and a career in the military, that she sent her a heart-felt note of thanks, which Gratreak shared with Deptula.

Deptula also told me Gratreak and Anderson formed a unique bond, with Anderson nicknaming her new soldier friend, "Grown-Up Girl". She said about Gratreak's daughter in her note, "... if your little girl grows up to be like you she will succeed in life, stand up for who you believe in... she will be very strong and strong willed."

During my interview with Gratreak about the success of the Guard Adventure Program, she said "The lesson learned is picking the people who are going to help you be successful in life."

Gratreak, it sounds like Emily Anderson picked a winner.

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

Monday, June 29, 2009

Oregon Senator to introduce key legislation to benefit military returning from deployment

Above: Oregon Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) met with members of the Oregon National Guard leadership, Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs and Family Support Groups at Portland State University on June 29, 2009 to review new legislation he plans to introduce to Congress on July 5, which will provide a “soft landing” for military members returning from deployment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs Office).

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) announced on June 29 he will introduce legislation to Congress which will provide a “soft landing” for military members returning from deployment.

He made the announcement at a roundtable meeting attended by members of the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs and Oregon National Guard leadership at Portland State University in downtown Portland.

“We need a transition from the trauma of combat to the serenity of home in Oregon,” Wyden said. “And this is part of the promise our state made to take care of our troops.”

The Senator said he plans to introduce the bills to Congress following the July 4 recess.

The five separate bills include provisions which will help servicemembers wounded in combat to find employment within their particular service; expand on key components of the Military Family Leave Act; enhance mental health counseling and treatment for returning servicemembers; and help veterans make informed healthcare decisions about their local VA hospital by providing patients with a semi-annual ‘report card’ of the facility.

The key legislation of the group is the Soft Landing Reintegration Act of 2009, which allows servicemembers deployed in a homeland defense mission for more than 180 days to remain on active duty for up to 90 days following their return. The legislation allows for the continuation of entitlements and pay, as well as access to reintegration services.

Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, The Adjutant General, Oregon National Guard, said these separate pieces of legislation are important to returning soldiers because deployed troops need time to transition back to their jobs and families.

“It can’t be ‘we’re back and everything is perfect’,” Rees said about troops who return home from a deployment. “This legislation certainly will help.”

Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah "Miah" Washburn, a member of the Oregon National Guard Reintegration Team, said between Oregon’s reintegration programs and the proposed legislation Wyden will bring before Congress, Oregon has the best care in the nation for returning veterans.

“The programs we have now are significantly better, and are more care-intensive,” he said.

Washburn’s most recent deployment was with the Oregon Army National Guard’s 41st Brigade Combat Team to Afghanistan in 2005. He said the strain of the deployment cost him his marriage.

“That three month period which allows soldiers to readjust is critical,” he said.

Jim Willis, Director of Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs, who is himself a veteran of the Vietnam War, said servicemembers of his generation were not properly looked after upon their return. He said the public not only hated the war, but they hated the individuals fighting the war.

“I think people have learned to love the warrior even though they hate the war,” he said.

With nearly 3,000 Oregon citizen-soldiers set to depart for Iraq within a month, Willis said the introduction of this legislation on a federal level is important.

“We’ll be able to decompress, reintegrate, and help our warriors move on at exactly the time they need it,” Willis said.

Former Oregon Army National Guardsman, Luke Wilson, said he wished the Wounded Warrior Retention Act was in place when he returned from Iraq in 2004. Wilson, who was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade while deployed to Iraq with the Oregon Army National Guard’s 2nd Infantry, 162nd Brigade, spent a year of grueling physical therapy at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital after he lost a leg.

What then followed added insult to injury, he said, when the Army refused to allow him to stay in, but also refused to allow him to rejoin his unit for their homecoming. He said it seemed that story changed almost daily while he was recuperating from his wounds.

“When I was at Walter Reed, one guy was telling me one thing and another guy was telling me something else,” Wilson said. “It was so confusing.”

He said the legislation will put in place a clear set of standards and practices for all services. Wilson said if the Army had allowed him to stay in the military, he would have done so in a ‘heartbeat’.

“I might not be able to run two miles like I used to,” Wilson said. “But I can sit behind a desk and calculate someone’s pay as well as the next guy.”

Donna Herr, who represents one of the Oregon National Guard Family Support Groups, said because Oregon lacks a full-time, active duty base, a lot of the built-in support network that comes with the active duty military is not available to Oregonians. Something as simple as daycare for a working spouse while their husband or wife is deployed becomes an extreme hardship, Herr said.

“A base environment would have helped,” she said.

Herr added that proposed changes to the Military Family Leave Act of 2009 would allow individuals up to two weeks of unpaid leave to help ease the transition of their deploying spouse.

For more information on the legislation Wyden proposes, go here.

A brief overview of the bills Wyden will introduce to Congress after it reconvenes July 5:

The Guard and Reserve "soft-landing" bill – The bill would allow returning vets to stay on active duty for up to 90 days after returning from a deployment, meaning they could continue to collect base pay, housing and other allowances as they transition back into ‘normal’ life. The idea is to build enough of a cushion for soldiers and families who take some time to readjust to civilian life, whether because of underemployment, emotional issues or financial hardship. Conversely, active-duty soldiers can re-enter life on a military base, surrounded by support systems. Guard soldiers and reservists on the other hand, find themselves in their hometowns within days of being ‘in country’.

The Wounded Warrior Retention Act – This bill would help servicemembers who want to stay in the military after suffering wounds but encounter insurmountable bureaucratic hurdles. Wyden argues that letting the services keep people who want to stay will ultimately save the country money by avoiding retraining costs.
The Military Family Leave Act – This bill will guarantee family members two weeks of employment leave to allow family members to spend time together, such as during a soldier's two weeks of mid-deployment leave. This leave would be without any penalties to the employee, and applies to part-time as well as fulltime positions.

The Servicemembers' Mental Health Commission Act – This law would establish a commission to study and help implement effective methods of treating the mental and emotional wounds of deployed servicepersons. It also strives to remove the stigma and barriers that servicemembers face while trying to seek assistance.
The Hospital Quality Report Card Initiative – This law would provide semi-annual VA hospital quality and equity reports to better inform patients and to provide information to agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Posted by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon Military Department Public Affairs Office

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Father's Day treat: Soldiers record themselves reading books to their kids

This past Sunday, many families honored their fathers and grandfathers on Father's Day. But for some Oregon Army National Guard soldiers who are preparing for a year in Iraq, their Father's Day observances started about a month ago.

Back in May, before members of the Oregon Army National Guard's 41 Infantry Brigade Combat Team headed to pre-mobilization training at Fort Stewart, Ga., a group of Oregon National Guard members spent the day recording themselves reading books to their kids at the Tigard Armory.

According to Blair Brettschneider of USA Today, the Junior League of Portland recorded troops who are heading to Iraq reading books to their children, so that it can be played back to the kids during the time their fathers are deployed.

The project, called Between The Lines, is an extension of the league's program to connect children of parents who are in prison. Go here to see the Oregonian article.

Guard members read books or stories of their choice into tape recorders. The League will distribute CDs of the recordings in addition to the books or stories the soldiers chose to the children.

Capt. Erin Bagley, who recorded stories for his two children said it's important to connect with family members while deployed. He said while e-mail and letters help, there's nothing like hearing a family members' voice. On a previous deployment, Bagley had an audio picture frame of his children which featured recordings of them saying how much they loved and missed him.

"I played it over and over again," he said. "It's just nice to hear those voices."

Nearly 3,000 Oregon Guard members are preparing to deploy to Iraq for one year. They are currently training at Fort Stewart, Ga.

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

Special thanks to KATU and the Oregonian for information for this post

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

National Guard, Air Force mourn the loss of former Washington D.C. Adjutant General

Above: U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. David F. Wherley Jr.

Retired Maj. Gen. David Wherley, former commander of the D.C. Army and Air National Guard, and his wife Ann, were among the nine victims killed in the D.C. Metro train crash yesterday.

Wherley commanded the 113th Wing at Andrews Air Force Base. The couple lived in the Hill East neighborhood and the general could often be seen walking to and from the armory.

He joined the Army reserve as a second lieutenant in 1969. After a brief active duty tour, he joined the D.C. Air National Guard. According to his official biography, he was deputy operations group commander for fighters in Saudi Arabia. He had logged more than 5,000 hours of flying time and was a graduate of the Fighter Weapons Instructor Course for the F-4 Phantom.

Wherley retired from the military in June 2008. When he was commanding general of Joint Force Headquarters, D.C. National Guard, he was responsible for operational readiness and command and control of the 3,200 soldiers and airmen in the D.C. Army and Air National Guard.

Wherley was the officer who scrambled fighters into Washington's skies on the day of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

"Most of our members have lived in the D.C. area for much of their lives," Wherley said in an interview a few days after the attacks. "To be patrolling and looking down on their homes, that has been an emotional moment."

The two trains collided about 5:00 p.m. in what officials said was the worst crash in the 30-plus year history of Metrorail. Nine people--two men and seven women--were killed, and more than 70 others were injured.

Investigators continued to determine the cause of the crash, which happened when a stopped train was rear-ended by another. The violent impact of the collision sent the second train into the air, its front cars coming to rest on top of the stopped train.

McMahon left impression on entertainment world and Oregon soldiers

Above: Oregon Army National Guard soldiers who were featured in a 2006 documentary, "This is War," were honored during a Hollywood screening of the film on March 10, 2008, in Los Angeles, Calif. From L to R: Ryan Howell, Sgt. Ryan Tuttle, former Tonight Show co-host, Ed McMahon, Sgt. 1st Class Phillip "Vinnie" Jacques, Staff Sgt. Kris Petersen, Rebekka Mae-Bruns, and Luke Wilson.

Last night, the entertainment world lost an icon. And for a handful of Oregon Army National Guard soldiers, the world lost a friend.

According to a spokesperson for the venerable actor and longtime Johnny Carson sidekick on the Tonight Show, Ed McMahon passed away early Tuesday. He was 86.

In March, 2008, a group of Oregonians had the chance to meet Ed McMahon, following the screening of the Iraq war documentary, "This is War: Memories of Iraq," at the second annual Cinema City Film Festival in Hollywood, Calif.

Oregon Army National Guard soldiers, Ryan Howell, Vincent Jacques, Ryan Tuttle, Kris Petersen, Rebekka-Mae Bruns, and Luke Wilson were honored at a formal event following the screening of the war documentary by Oregon independent film director Gary Mortensen.

For two days, the soldiers were treated like celebrities. Cameras clicked and videotape rolled. The red-carpet event was followed by a special screening of the film, and a party where the soldiers were able to meet and mingle with some of the featured celebrities in attendence.

After all the congratulations were exchanged, autographs were signed, and the red carpet rolled up, the Oregonians were ready to head home. On the morning of their departure, Mr. McMahon invited the group to visit him in his Hollywood hills home. What we found did not fit the typical Hollywood celebrity stereotype. McMahon was about as genuine and down-to-earth as you could get.

From L to R: Staff Sgt. Kris Petersen, "This is War" director, Gary Mortensen, Ryan Howell and Luke Wilson look over Ed McMahon's artwork and photographs. The former Tonight Show co-host invited the Oregon soldiers to his house in Beverly Hills to personally thank them for their service.
As a former naval aviator in WWII, McMahon understood the sacrifice these Oregonians endured during their year-long tour in Iraq. He said the opportunity to meet the soldiers from Oregon was a personal honor.

"I'm so happy to have them here in my home and share some of my military experiences with them," he said from behind a large desk in his study. Behind him, the walls were plastered with photos and memorabilia from his many years in the military and show business.

"They're quite a group," he added as an afterthought. "And they need to be honored at all times."

Before the soldiers departed for the airport, McMahon and his wife Pam gave each of them a gift basket containing books from their 'favorites' reading list, snacks, and a signed, framed photograph of the entertainer. The gift was modest, but the gesture left a memorable impression on the soldiers.

"I am extremely humbled," said Vinnie Jacques. "Mr. McMahon is a really incredible guy."

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

Monday, June 22, 2009

Active Duty Air Force to move F-15C pilot, crew chief training to southern Oregon

According to an article published today on the Air Force Times website, the Oregon Air National Guard's 173rd Fighter Wing will benefit from a consolidation of F-15C training sites currently going on throughout the Air National Guard.

The Air Education and Training Command (AETC) schoolhouse for active duty Air Force pilots and crew chiefs currently at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, will relocate to Kingsley Field in southern Oregon.

The consolidation follows Defense Secretary Robert Gates' move to phase out 112 of the U.S. Air Force's 405 F-15C's by the end of 2010, said USAF Col. Jeff Kendall, deputy director of flying training at AETC headquarters at Randolph AFB, Texas.

Kendall said the 173rd FW will continue to train Guard and active duty pilots, and will acquire four two-seat F-15D training jets, bringing the unit's total to 25 planes.

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

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Almost Friday: Looking forward to the weekend never sounded so good

Master Sgt. Rodney Galloway leads the band Almost Friday through a sound check before a show at Duffy's Hangar April 24.

For some people, joining the military provides a means to travel the world and enjoy a camaraderie unique to the armed forces.

Others join for the sense of adventure.

For two Oregon Army National Guard recruiters, their adventure begins every Friday night.

Left: Sgt. Maj. Charles Kovitch, drummer for Almost Friday, plays at a show at Duffy's Hangar in Salem, Ore., April 24. The band played five hours and performed 44 songs that night.
Recently, Sgt. Maj. Chuck Kovitch and Master Sgt. Rod Galloway unloaded one large case after another before a show at Duffy's Hangar in Salem.

On the cases, stenciled in large white letters is the band's name; 'Almost Friday.' The words commemorate the way this rock-n-roll band was formed.

For years the bandmembers would call, text or e-mail each other with these same words, anticipating an opportunity to get together for a jam session.

"'Hey, it's almost Friday,' is what we would say to each other, because we were looking forward to rehearsal," said Galloway, the band's lead singer and guitarist.

The band consists of five members, three of whom have no affiliation with the military.

But the influence of the Oregon National Guard is undeniable. One song on the band's debut release, titled On Point for the Nation, extols the pride these soldiers take in their service.

"On point for the Nation--and proud to stand tall--this modern day militia will answer the call--," sings Galloway to the audience.

Kovitch said when the band played On Point for the Nation at the Rose Garden in Portland in front of 7,000 people duing a Trailblazers' halftime show, the entire audience was "in synch" with the band.

"You could've heard a pin drop because the crowd was so in tune with us as soldiers singing that song--it was amazing," Kovitch said.

He said the best part about being in the band is the ability to write songs about being a soldier with an "inside perspective."

"I take a lot of pride in that," he said.

Kovitch looks forward to playing the drums for the band wherever they tour and says that when he retires he'll be a full-time drummer and songwriter.

The band has recently released its first studio album. Galloway says he hopes to become what he calls a regional band with performance dates throughout Oregon, southern Washington and northern California.

For more information on the band, please visit http://www.almostfridaymusic.com/.

Upcoming tour dates for Almost Friday:
- Saturday, June 27, Hermiston Wal-Mart, 2:00 p.m.
- Friday, July 10, Marion County Fair Main Stage, State Fairgrounds, 4:00 p.m.

Follow Almost Friday on Facebook here.

Story and photos by Tech. Sgt. Jefferson Thompson,
Oregon National Guard Public Affairs Office

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bill likely to pass State Senate will save Oregon's armories

The budget for the Oregon Military Department is scheduled to pass with no armory closures.

"We've been able to work with the Oregon State Legislature to prevent the closures from happening, but all of this is predicated on revenue estimates that some consider rosy," said Brig. Gen. Mike Caldwell, Deputy Director, Oregon Military Department.

The current budget for the Oregon Military Department is 14 percent below the base budget passed two years ago, and depends on the passage of a bill that would increase tax revenue, raising corporate taxes and additional taxes on those making $150,000 a year.

Currently, the bill is in the Oregon State Senate.Earlier in the year, the Oregon State Legislature asked the department to come up with a 30-percent reduction proposal.

Under that proposal, the Oregon National Guard could have closed as many as 20 armories and shut down the Oregon Youth Challenge program. The cuts would have also severed funding for the Oregon National Guard Reintegration program along with staff positions throughout the agency.

"Much of the decision making came from legislators hearing the voices of support for keeping the armories open for the troops and their families," said Caldwell.

Once the legislation passes the Oregon Youth Challenge program will remain in place and funding for the Oregon National Guard Reintegration Program will also be secure.

The final legislative vote on the Oregon Military Department budget should come by the end of the month.

Story courtesy of Oregon Military Department Public Affairs Office

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Secretary of the Army thanks Oregon Guard members for their sacrifice, service

Dear Gen. Rees,

I want to thank you for your leadership and service to the Guardsmen of Oregon during one of the most challenging and dynamic periods in the Guard's 372-year history.

It has been a privilege to serve with you during my three years with the Army. And I thank you and your fellow Adjutants General for honoring me with the iconic "Concord Minuteman." That is something I will treasure always.

During these challenging times, you and your Guardsmen have been called upon to make many personal sacrifices to ensure the defense of our Nation and to respond to homeland contingencies. You and your men and women have met these challenges with determination and professionalism.

Please pass along my thanks to your Guardsmen for all they do for our Nation. Our country needs them at home and abroad and they are greatly appreciated by the American people.

Thank you for all you do to help keep our military Strong. Best regards.


Pete Geren,
Secretary of the Army
Washington, D.C.

Friday, June 12, 2009

New facility at Withycombe a tribute to 41st Division past, present and future

I had the pleasure in May to stand alongside heroes from World War II’s famed 41st Infantry Division during the ground breaking ceremony for a new facility named in their honor. (see May 30 blog post here)

Standing with us were members of today’s Oregon National Guard who will serve in the new Armed Forces Reserve Center. These men and women represent our past and our future. This $75 million project will cover 35 acres and dramatically change the face of Camp Withycombe.

It will be home to approximately 1,300 members of the Oregon National Guard and US Army Reserve. More than 140 full time soldiers will also perform their daily work in this complex.

Our success with this project typifies the professionalism of the Oregon Guard. The 2005 BRAC left us with the good news that a modern facility was authorized but the bad news that the project was funded at only 35 percent.

Col. Rock Chilton, our Chief of Installations, used his many years of experience and the energy and enthusiasm of his staff to pursue at every level the 65 percent needed to give our soldiers the outcome they deserve. The result is that we truly will have a 21st-Century center for 21st Century soldiers.

To cap this great experience, one week later I traveled to Fort Stewart, Ga., to visit with the heirs of the 41st Infantry Division. Today’s Jungleers of the 41 Infantry Brigade Combat Team are doing a magnificent job in their pre-mobilization training. Officer and NCO leadership have never been better. They are well on their way to make history during their deployment to Iraq.

The brigade headquarters and the Special Troops Battalion will call the new AFRC their home.
The scope of this project is mammoth--it will take nearly two years to complete.

Additional elements that will reside there are the 82 Brigade headquarters, 82 ROC, 234 Army band, 3670 Maintenance Company. We will close the Tigard, Lake Oswego and Jackson Band Armories and convert the Clackamas Armory to the Oregon Military Museum.

This project could not have come at a better time to provide jobs in a bad economy, affirm our support for deploying soldiers, and replace aged and inadequate facilities. Our profound thanks must go to our legislators and our congressional delegation for making this possible.

Let me close by making my annual appeal for each and everyone of you to recognize that with the fun and excitement of the 100 days of summer comes increased risk and concern for safety.

You are professionals. Whether you are deploying, training, or enjoying a well deserved recreational event you must understand the inherent risk involved. Use you safety training to make appropriate risk assessments and assure that you, your fellow soldiers and airmen and you families all have a safe, happy and fulfilling summer.

Raymond F. Rees, Major General,
The Adjutant General,
Oregon National Guard

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Oregon Air National Guard popular in the virtual world too

In my daily stroll through the blogosphere and the virtual world, I frequently come across some pretty interesting content about our fellow National Guardmembers, the Oregon National Guard, or the equipment with which we train.

The other day, I came across something out of the ordinary. In fact, I'd go as far as to say it's really cool. Rather than tell you about it, I'll just show it to you:

You're not imagining things, and no, that's not a photo that's been manipulated to look like a computer simulation.

It's a computer-modeled F-15C complete with a 142nd Fighter Wing tail-flash, taking off from the Portland International Airport. The paint scheme was created by "moffettflyer" on a gaming site devoted to fans of the flight simulator software X-Plane.

The paint scheme is available as a free download for those who use the X-Plane flight simulator and would like their F-15 jets to sport the Redhawks' tail insignia.

Nice to know that computer flight simulator fans are out there piloting Oregon's F-15 jets.

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

Sunday, June 7, 2009

WWII fighter pilot recalls his role during D-Day invasion 65 years ago

Above: WWII and Korea War veteran Stanley P. Richardson points to a map of the coast of France, where he patrolled the skies in a P-38 Lightning fighter on June 6, 1944.

The things he did would’ve made John Wayne jealous.

But unlike the venerable actor who appeared in many war films, WWII veteran Stanley P. Richardson Jr., didn’t get a time-out, and there was no director to yell “CUT!”

“I wasn’t scared,” he said. “But there were times when I was frightened, like when the German fighter planes tried to kill me.”

Sixty-five years ago this weekend, Richardson flew three sorties over the coast of Normandy on D-Day--the Allied invasion of German-occupied France. About 600 feet below his P-38 Lightning, more than 180,000 Allied troops came ashore in what became known as the “Longest Day.”

Left: Stanley P. Richardson Jr. in 1944.

He and his wingmen would fly six more sorties over the next two days, following the largest amphibious assault in modern warfare. They provided protective air cover as the ground troops made their way inland, paving the way for an eventual victory in the European theater during the waning years of WWII.

In spite of the six-and-half decades since that fateful day, Richardson’s memories remain vivid, as if it happened yesterday, he said.

“Thousands of men were attacking the beach and climbing the cliffs,” he said. “I looked down from my plane and could see these men dying by the hundreds. That’s a bad memory to have of D-Day.”

As one of the special guests for the 142nd Fighter Wing’s Young America Day at the Portland Air National Guard Base, Richardson spent the day meeting with the unit’s airmen, visitors to the base, and youngsters with the Civil Air Patrol and local scout troops.

Many paused to ask Richardson questions, or to look at photos on display of the then 21-year old first lieutenant who flew fighter planes for the United States Army Air Corps’ 338th Fighter Squadron.

“We had some good days and some bad days,” Richardson recalled. “One day I remember we called ‘Black Friday’. We mixed it up with the Germans and they shot down 11 of our guys—nine of them from my hut. When we got back, myself and one other guy were the only ones in our hut who returned.”
Above: U.S. Army Air Corps First Lieutenant Stanley P. Richardson Jr. (second from left), with his flight crew and his P-38 Lightning, "Miss Mona" at RAF Wittering, England in 1944.

Richardson said when he began flying missions in October 1943, the German Luftwaffe “owned the skies” over the continent.

“So many times there would be 100-200 German planes against our 50 planes,” he said.
But after D-Day, Richardson said there were no German planes to be seen.

“It was a gradual process, but we put more fighter units into the battle, and shot down the Germans,” he said. “Soon, there were no German planes over the continent because we owned the skies.”

After his discharge following the war, Richardson arrived in Portland, Oregon. He began flying again—this time commercial planes for Pan-American Airlines.

Richardson was recalled into the Air Force in 1949 for the Korea War, and underwent further training as a materiel officer, learning how to run aircraft maintenance operations at the fighter wing level. Because of his experience flying fighter aircraft in WWII, he was able to gain some experience in the F-86 Sabre, which the Air Force began using in Korea in early 1953.

In August 1953, Richardson returned to the Northwest, and was discharged from the Air Force. He went back to flying commercial planes. One day, while driving past the Oregon Air National Guard Base, he spied a flight line full of P-51 Mustangs.

“I thought I had died and gone to heaven,” he said.

He soon joined the 123rd Fighter Squadron, and because he had flight time in the F-86 jets in Korea, Richardson was given the responsibility of instructing Oregon Air Guard pilots on the new jet.

“I served two years with the Oregon Air National Guard,” Richardson said. “It was a wonderful time of my life.”

Between civilian and military aircraft, Richardson has logged over 30,000 hours as a pilot. He volunteers at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Ore., and at 86 years of age, still gets to fly airplanes—his most recent flight in a friend’s P-51 Mustang about a month before.

Above: Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Stanley P. Richardson Jr. stands in front of a P-38 Lightning fighter aircraft, similar to the one he flew on June 6, 1944. Richardson volunteers as a docent at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Ore.

“I’ve been a pilot all my life,” he said. “But I’m a fighter pilot, and that’s what I want to be known as.”

Richardson makes no distinction between his military service, and that of some 17 million others who served their country in WWII and Korea.

“They served because their country needed them,” he said. “I signed on because my country needed me, and my country taught me to fly, and gave me an airplane with 3,500 horsepower and five guns—life didn’t get any better than that for a 20-year old kid.

“I’m very happy to have been a part of that,” he added. “This country has been very, very good to me.”

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

Friday, June 5, 2009

This weekend marks 65th anniversary of D-Day, thanks to a weatherman named Capt. Stagg

Above: The grave marker of the American soldier, Robert B. Seyler, at the American Cemetery and Memorial overlooking Omaha Beach in Normandy, France.

Sixty-five years ago this weekend, the Allies launched the greatest offensive ever seen in modern warfare.

Dubbed "Operation Neptune," the Allied invasion of Normandy involved two phases; an air assault by U.S., Canadian and British paratroopers, and an amphibious assault of armored troops commencing at 0630 on June 6, 1944.

All-told, some 160,000 troops and approximately 5,000 ships were involved in the invasion in Northern France, covering some 50 miles of coastline. But the invasion almost didn't happen as planned, if it were not for British Army Capt. James Martin Stagg.

As General Eisenhower's chief meteorologist, Stagg was saddled with the responsibility of not only predicting the weather within what experts called "a small window of opportunity", but also advising the supreme allied commander on the perfect time and day to proceed.

The weather leading into early June was horrible. June 4, 1944 started with wind and high seas, making a beach landing nearly impossible. Furthermore, low clouds and rain would turn the planned aerial drop into a suicide mission. Landing craft and troop convoy ships already staged in the English Channel were forced to take shelter in coves and bays. It looked like the mission would be scrubbed afterall.

At a critical meeting the following morning, Eisenhower met with the Allied commanders. After they poured over reports and status updates, the general asked the allied leaders to weigh in, hoping for a consensus. Only British Air Chief Marshall Trafford Leigh-Mallory was doubtful.

While rumors of the invasion had been swirling for months, the German high command believed conditions were too poor for the Allies to launch the invasion. Indeed, weather conditions inland in Northern France, where the Germans were headquartered, were worse than on the coast.

Many German infantry divisions stood down, and senior officers took the weekend off. German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel spent the weekend celebrating his wife's birthday, and many other troop commanders participated in mock war games away from the coast.

A perfect storm was brewing, and it had nothing to do with the weather.

Captain Stagg presented his findings to the assembled senior leadership on the weather outlook for June 6. As the senior meteorologist, Stagg was responsible for assembling data from three separate weather forecasting teams--The Royal Navy, The United Kingdom's Meteorological Office, and United States Army Air Forces.

After careful consideration of the reports, Stagg concluded that there may be a brief improvement in the weather over the next 24 hours. Based on his information, Eisenhower ordered the invasion forward.

The British 2nd Army and Number 10 Commandos, consisting of 83,000 troops were employed, backed by the United States Army 1st Infantry and 29th Infantry Divisions, 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions, and the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions--all consisting of 73,000 men, readied for the invasion.

General Eisenhower read the following statement just before dawn on June 6:

"You are about to embark upon the great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months."

What happened next has been committed to collective memory, and immortalized in countless television shows, movies, and books. Places like Omaha Beach, Utah Beach, Normandy and Pointe du Hoc serve as a reminder to many who made the ultimate sacrifice in the closing years of WWII.

This weekend, as you go about your daily lives, please take some time to reflect on the sacrifices of our WWII veterans. Some are our grandfathers or great-grandfathers. Many have already passed on.

And if you have a chance to go outside to enjoy the sunshine, remember the work of Captain J.M. Stagg--a weatherman who played a part in the success of what some call "The Longest Day."

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

Oregon War Veterans Association appeals to State Legislature

On June 3rd, Greg Warnock, Oregon War Veterans Administration head, appealed to members of the Oregon State Legislature regarding bills which benefit the Oregon National Guard and their families.

Read more about the issues regarding Senate Bills 921, 920 and 917 on the OWVA blog, here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

WWII-era ordnance detonated at Camp Withycombe

An explosives team from EMAC Environmental detonates a WWII-era 37mm projectile at Camp Withycombe, June 3. The ordnance was found at the state facility during ongoing soil remediation and restoration efforts.

Just when the dust settled at Camp Withycombe following a groundbreaking ceremony for a new building late last week, and filming for the television show Leverage on Monday, explosive ordnance teams brought the post back into the spotlight.

A 37mm projectile was found after an environmental project walk through of the east hillside near the posts' old rifle range. Crews determined that the live ordnance should be detonated in-place.

The area where the projectile was found is a former practice range dating back prior to 1906, and has been the site of an environmental clean up project which utilized mining technology to separate lead bullets from the soil.

Left: Jim Arnold, Restoration Manager for the Oregon Military Department, inspects chunks of ordnance found at the old rifle range at Camp Withycombe.

"As we continue to clean and inspect this area we anticipate finding old ordnance from the past," said Jim Arnold, Restoration Manager for the Oregon Military Department's Environmental Branch.

According to the demolition team from EMAC Environmental, the first "shot" failed to completely destroy the projectile, so they set another, bigger charge.

Arnold said today's blast is part of a continual restoration effort, and it's likely other ordnance may be found which will require similar methods of disposal.

As if his statement foretold the future, the second explosion destroyed the original projectile, but uncovered a second, similar piece of ordnance in the blast crater.

The EOD team set a third charge, which ultimately destroyed the second projectile.

"Certainly our goal is to restore this land to a point where the Oregon Military Department can say we've met the rules administered by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality," Arnold said.

The area is part of the planned Sunset Corridor Freeway project, Arnold said. While the freeway is still in the planning stages, a section of the project will cut through the former practice range.

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

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Camp Withycombe the center of attention, jobs

Camp Withycombe is getting a lot of attention lately.

Last Friday, a groundbreaking ceremony was held there for a new building which will be dedicated to the 41st Infantry Division--a storied unit which saw some of the fiercest fighting in austere locations throughout the South Pacific during WWII.

The $75 million building will be the home of units from the Oregon National Guard and the United States Army Reserve. Construction is scheduled to be complete in August, 2011.

Yesterday, a film crew spent the day at Camp Withycombe filming scenes from a television show called "Leverage", starring actor Timothy Hutton.

Various locations around the state facility were remade into a fictitious U.S. Army post called "Fort Menig," and rather than give away the plot, I'll let you watch it for yourself later this summer. You might even catch a few of our Oregon Guardmembers who played extras in the episode.

What do these recent events at Withycombe have in common? Like last Friday's ceremony, yesterday's film production brings much-needed jobs to Oregon--a state which ranks second nationwide in unemployment numbers.

"This project brings about a hundred living-wage jobs to Oregon for six months," said Don Baldwin, Key Assistant Location Manager for the production.

The production also employs local film crews, support staff, security and catering companies, he said.

"The money we spend flows through a lot of hands," Baldwin continued. "But it all stays here in Oregon."

Indeed, Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski met with four TV and movie companies yesterday in an effort to highlight Oregon's booming film and video industry. He is asking the state legislature to increase Oregon's Production Investment Fund from $5 million a year to $7.5 million.

The governor said investing in the movie buisness doesn't cost the state--rather it makes the state money.

According to a report by OPB Radio, movie companies not only generate jobs, they also stimulate the local economy.

The report cited a study by ECONorthwest, which found that for every $1 million spent by a production company, $1.1 million is generated for local businesses and workers.

That's something we could all pay attention to.

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