Thursday, October 29, 2009

Local Race Car Driver Rallies for the Troops

Mark Fox, driver of the #54 Rally America National Guard race car, and winner of the 2009 "Rookie of the Year" title, poses outside the Oregon Military Department after meeting with soldiers there. Fox said he promotes the National guard due to the service and sacrifice of National Guard personnel around the world. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy

Instead of rallying around the Oregon National Guard, 38-year old racecar driver, Mark Fox is literally rallying for them.

He finished the 2009 Rally America racing season as Rookie of the Year, driving his #54 Subaru, dedicated to the National Guard.

"It brings a lot of camaraderie with people that are in the Guard and definitely draws a lot of attention," said Fox, a resident of Salem, Ore.

Fox is not in the military, but said he has great respect for what soldiers do. His grandmother retired from the Oregon National Guard, and several of his friends are in the National Guard.

But it wasn't until he watched the independent documentary film, "This is War"--a video diary about the experiences of soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, who were deployed to Iraq for a year in 2004--that he felt compelled to do something more.

"It was so powerful and emotional that after I watched the documentary, I decided I wanted to do my part," Fox said.

He wrapped his Subaru completely in National Guard digital camouflage graphics and logos.

"I think it's a great patriotic way to support us," said Col. Alaine Encabo, Recruiting and Retention Commander with the Oregon National Guard.

Fox said he and his co-driver, Jake Blattner, took several top spots throughout the 2009 racing season, earning him the Rookie of the Year title.

"It was a great honor to get Rookie of the Year and we did it with a rookie co-driver," Fox said.

Fox said he relies on his co-driver for directions, much like soldiers rely on their "battle-buddy" in combat, he said.

"It builds a bond between us because you trust each other so much," said Fox.

A bond Oregon National Guard soldiers can relate to.

"The sport is gaining momentum and is extremely popular among our recruiting pool," Encabo said. "We are grateful for the support Fox is giving us."
Col. Alaine Encabo, Recruiting and Retention Commander with the Oregon National Guard (right), speaks with independent rally race car driver, Mark Fox (seated). Fox, who had a successful 2009 racing season, was voted "Rookie of the Year" by the Rally America Series. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs Office).

Rally races take place on all surfaces and in all conditions including asphalt, gravel, snow, and even ice, said Fox, who is a self-professed 'adrenaline junkie'.

Fox races in one of the rally competitions in 2009. He and his co-driver, Jake Blattner, placed high in the standings for this racing season. Photo courtesy of Matthew Poppoff.

"Rally racing is fast cars on real roads," he continued.

"We have multiple stages over the course of two or three days, generally about 350 state miles," he added.

The season took Fox and Blattner all over the country, often driving a truck to haul the race car and supplies from Oregon to the east coast and back again. The pair completed the race season entirely as "privateers", which translates into racing without any outside funding.

"It's very expensive," said Fox.

Fox said he hopes to improve on his wins this season by doing even better next year.

"I'd like to continue competing and have properly funded season, and go to battle for the championship.

We imagine the battle will be fierce--and like a true warrior, Fox will prevail.
Story by Kim Lippert,
Oregon National Guard Public Affairs Office

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Oregon National Guard Reintegration Team provides support to soldiers

When you were needed, you were there. Now the Oregon National Guard Reintegration Team wants to return the favor.

The Oregon National Guard's Reintegration and Service Member Support Team has a number of resources to help commanders and airmen/soldiers of the Oregon National Guard.

Their mission is to help individuals transition back to their families, jobs, schools and their communities.

The team provides 24-hour, 7-day a week support by connecting soldiers and airmen with a number of agencies which provide benefits to Oregon National Guard members and their families.

They also have a suicide-prevention hotline, which is staffed 24/7. You can reach that number by dialing 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Ranging from Career Transition Assistance Programs, which link Guard members with resources to help them reach their career goals, to the latest copy of the Wounded Warrior Entitlements Handbook, the Oregon National Guard Reintegration Team is there to help you.

For more information, visit their website here. Or call their 24-hour Toll-Free number, at: 1-888-688-2264.

Below are a list of important numbers and links to some of the services the team provides.

- Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255
- Oregon National Guard Reintegration Team: 888-688-2264
- Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs: 800-828-8801, or 800-673-8387 (Benefit Claims)
- Oregon Employment Department: 800-237-3710 or 877-517-5627
- Oregon's Employer Support of the Guard & Reserve (ESGR): 503-584-2841 or 503-508-3362

Monday, October 26, 2009

New grant allows free mental counseling for Oregon National Guard soldiers and their families who face post-deployment stress

Oregon National Guard soldiers and their families can soon take advantage of free family counseling, thanks to a new grant from the National Center on Family Homelessness.

The grant is funded by the Walmart Foundation.

Darcy Woodke, family assistance specialist for the State Family Programs Office, says she has seen the need for soldiers' family services rise in recent years.

"This grant allows us to provide free services to OEF/OIF military families," she said.

The treatment sessions are free to all Oregon National Guard soldiers and their families. Sessions are being offered in the Eugene are over the next few months.

In early October, about 20 mental health providers met in Eugene, Ore., to focus on how to help soldiers and their families deal with post-deployment adjustments such as chronic stress, anxiety and post-traumatic stress.

"We wouldn't wish someone to get PTSD, but it's one of the most treatable mental health disorders," said Dr. Candice Monson, developer for intervention on the project.

Monson, who is also Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of Clinical Training at Ryerson University in Ontario, Canada, said one of the main treatments is to confront the fears head-on.

"Often soldiers suffering from chronic stress or PTSD avoid crowds," she said. "Avoidance exacerbates problems."

Monson encourages anyone who is a significant person in the life of a returning soldier to attend the counseling sessions because they can be agents for change.

"I think our loved ones are a reason for change especially if they understand they can be a person to help them continue to face what they fear," Monson said.

For more information on the free family counseling, contact Darcy Woodke at 541-736-4601, or 503-991-6097.

Story by Kimberly Lippert,
Oregon Military Department Public Affairs Office

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How does the flu travel?

The Centers for Disease Control put out this very interesting, albeit busy, graphic which explains how a virus or cold moves from one person to another.

It also contains helpful hints on how to avoid getting sick.

Sorry, it doesn't come with a magnifying glass...

Bottom line: wash your hands, cover your cough/sneeze and where practical (and possible), wear a mask.

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

Oregon National Guard Adjutant General responds to negative editorial

On Oct. 17, the Mail Tribune published an editorial entitled, "Guard Policy Bewildering: How can a food bank to benefit soldiers' families be inappropriate for an armory?"

The editorial begins, "It's a decision so bewildering it almost takes your breath away: The Oregon National Guard has ordered local residents to close a food bank at the Merlin National Guard Armory."

To read the rest of the editorial, please visit the Mail Tribune website, here.

The following letter to the editor, written in response to the above editorial, by Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, the Adjutant General, Oregon National Guard, has been sent to Mr. Dennis Roler of the Grants Pass Daily Courier.

Dear Dennis Roler,

On Oct. 17, 2009, the Grants Pass Courier published an editorial titled, "Guard Policy Bewildering: How can a food bank to benefit soldiers' families be inappropriate for an armory?"

As leaders of the Oregon National Guard, we can tell you that as an organization, we are extremely grateful for any effort supporting our soldiers, airmen and their families. Anytime our communities are willing to "step up" for Guard members, we are always filled with pride and appreciation.

The National Guard/Militia is rooted in our state and national constitutions. At our foundation the Guard is comprised of citizen-soldiers. We are intertwined with our communities--we are your friends as well as your neighbors. We live, work, play and pray in our towns and cities in this great state we call home. We are not separate and distinct from these communities, but a part thereof.

We have spoken with leaders at the Josephine County Food Bank and they have assured us they have an effective and robust system in place to assist those in need.

The issue of the Food Bank at the Grants Pass Armory is disturbing on several levels. First, it is regrettable that the difficult economic times we live in are forcing proud, hardworking members of our communities to seek additional food assistance, but as stated earlier, we are a cross section of our communities, so no doubt we have Guard families in need.

Second, we have been made aware of the Josephine County Food Bank, which is willing to assist all the community when needed and is noted as one of the best food bank systems in Oregon. Why would it be necessary to set up a parallel system when less than a mile away from our Armory there is a food pantry?

We are not against the support being generated through the food bank at the local National Guard Armory. We believe these resources would be better utilized assisting the effective system already set in placed by Josephine County.

As our deployments have increased over the last five or six years, we have seen the creation of food donation drives through many well-meaning citizens and organizations.

Unfortunately, it has often created confusion among unit members as well as their families. We have concluded it is better for those needy families to use existing support networks throughout Oregon. Further, this is in line with National Guard Bureau Policy.

The Oregon National Guard has an extensive support network. Our Family Program has full-time staff and volunteers across the state to connect those in need to a wide variety of services.

In addition, the Oregon National Guard Emergency Relief Fund is easily accessible and generously supported through donations and state appropriations. National Guard families in need may contact: Barbara McClenathan, Battalion Family Programs Coordinator, (541) 892-4146; Staff Sgt. Richard Wirfs, Emergency Relief Fund, (503) 584-3989; or Maj. Darren Hoschouer, Senior Full-Time Officer in Southern Oregon, (541) 482-4414.

We greatly appreciate the efforts of our fellow friends and neighbors who support the Oregon National Guard. We encourage local organizations to redirect their efforts in assisting the Josephine County Food Bank.

When we are needed, we are there. Thank you to the community of Josephine County for doing the same for our citizen-soldiers and citizen-airmen.


Major General
The Adjutant General

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

National Guard bobsled team goes for the gold

The National Guard has both a NASCAR and an Indy race car.

They've also got a custom-made chopper, courtesy of Orange County Choppers.

What most people don't know is that the National Guard also has a bobsled team. And if things go the way they hope, they'll also have a gold medal.

Members of the Army National Guard Bobsled team are now training for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic games at the official training facility Lake Placid, NY. They will compete for slots on the U.S. team.
The team is comprised of Army National Guard members from Vermont, California, Virginia and Utah. To read the January 2009 DoD story on their training, go here.

According to the National Guard Bureau, the soldiers are part of the Army National Guard's Outstanding Athlete Program. In addition to giving their all for their country and their respective states, they will now give their all for the gold medal in 2010.
Check out the nifty NGB video on their training:

Let's keep an eye on them as they represent the United States in international competition, and wish them well on their bid for the gold medal.

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

Former Oregon soldier returns to Iraq as part of Operation Proper Exit

Right: Retired Oregon Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Luke Wilson jokes that audience members can play with his prosthetic leg if they want, during a "town hall meeting" with paratroopers of 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division during a visit by wounded warriors participating in Operation Proper Exit, Oct. 15. Photo by Spc. Mike MacLeod.

To help bring closure to their participation in war, The Troops First Foundation, working with the USO, took eight wounded soldiers back to Iraq in the early part of October, 2009.

Luke Wilson, who hails from Hermiston, Ore., was one of them.

According to officials who organized the program, Operation Proper Exit, their aim is to help wounded warriors complete their mission.

"Some of you were taken in on a gurney and left on a gurney and won't remember having ever been there," Wilson told them at the Joint Visitors Bureau Oct. 12.

Wilson lost his left leg below the knee in an RPG attack on his convoy on Aug. 4, 2004, while he was deployed to Baghdad with the Oregon Army National Guard's 2nd Battalion 162 Infantry.

He and seven others visited Camp Ramadi, Iraq. The group was comprised of Marine Sgt. John Eubanks of Atlanta, Ga., Army Cpl. Craig Chavez of Temecula, Calif., Army Sgt. John Hyland of Charlotte, N.C., Army Sgt. 1st Class Josh Olson of Spokane, Wash., Army Sgt. Eric Payton of Milford, N.J., and Army 1st Lt. Ed Salau aof Stella, N.C.

The group spent a week making stops throughout Iraq, and visited with paratroopers of the 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division. They were introduced to soldiers at the headquarters of the U.S. military command at Camp Victory, in a palace believed to have belonged to the late Saddam Hussein, al-Faw Palace.

Retired Oregon Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Luke Wilson relaxes on an armchair, believed to have belonged to Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, at al-Faw Palace, on the outskirts of Baghdad, on Oct. 11. Wilson and seven other wounded warriors visited Iraq as part of Operation Proper Exit--a program developed to return injured troops to Iraq to visit the battlefields where they were injured.

"This trip wasn't anything like I expected," Wilson said. "When I was here before, there were IED's, attacks, people being shot at every day."

The program which brought the warriors back to Iraq is sponsored by Troops First Foundation and the USO. The aim is to return military members to the battlefield where they were injured, with the goal of bringing a sense of closure and showing them the improvements taking place in Iraq.

According to 1st Bde. 82nd Airborne Div. Command Sgt. Maj. LaMarquis Knowles, the visit allows the warriors to see first hand the impact of their service.

"You can be assured your sacrifices were worth something," he told the warriors.

I've had the privilege of spending time with Luke Wilson on a few occasions. He is one of the most laid-back, easy-going people I know. In spite of his injury, he remains upbeat and positive.

In fact, he has taken his situation and turned it into a positive one; he has been a staunch supporter of the nationally-recognized Oregon National Guard Reintegration Program, and has spoken publicly at several local town-hall meetings with civic and local leaders throughout Oregon.

We posted a blog on June 29 in which Wilson took part in a press conference where Oregon Senator Ron Wyden announced proposed legislation to provide better transition for soldiers returning from deployments.

And by his own admittance, Wilson's saving grace is his incredible sense of humor.

Sitting in a restaurant in Los Angeles in early 2008, the night before a film festival screening of the independent film, "This is War", which featured Wilson and his fellow soldiers of the 2-162 IN BN, Wilson leans over to me and says, "Watch this."

He proceeds to turn his prosthetic leg upside down so the bottom of his foot is pointing upward. He then places it on the edge of the table.

The look on the waitress' face was something I can only describe as a mixture of horror and surprise.

"See? What did I tell you?" Wilson said with a boyish grin as the entire table broke out in laughter.

"He does this all the time," said fellow 2-162 Inf. Bn. soldier, and Reintegration Team member, Sgt. 1st Class Vincent Jacques. "It's getting to the point where we can't take him anywhere."

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

Monday, October 19, 2009

Stencel assumes command of Oregon National Guard’s 142 Fighter Wing

Col. Michael E. Stencel (right), assumed command of the Oregon Air National Guard's 142nd Fighter Wing from outgoing wing commander, Col. John E. Kent (center), during a ceremony at Portland Air National Guard Base, Oct. 17. Stencel has been a member of the Oregon Air National Guard since 1984, and has served in various leadership roles throughout the organization.

Over the weekend, the Oregon Air National Guard's 142nd Fighter Wing got a new commander.

Col. John E. Kent, who retired from the Oregon Air National Guard, relinquished command of the Oregon Air National Guard’s 142nd Fighter Wing to Col. Michael E. Stencel during a change of command ceremony at the Portland Air National Guard Base Oct. 17.

Kent has served as the wing commander of the unit since 2007. Kent is a command pilot with over 3,400 operational hours in the F-15 aircraft, and has been employed with Delta Airlines as a commercial pilot since 2000.

Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, The Adjutant General, Oregon National Guard, said Kent followed in the footsteps of many great wing commanders who came before him. He thanked Kent for doing a “magnificent” job.

“He has found what was worth doing in his life,” Rees said.

Under Kent’s leadership, the 142nd Fighter Wing upgraded from the F-15 A and B model jets to the C and D models. The unit also saw its share of high level inspections, and continous deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Noble Eagle. The wing also exceeded its end-strength goals of 100 percent membership.

Kent challenged the entire wing to a future is as bright as their past. He also reminded the airmen of their great accomplishments.

“You don’t know how good you all are,” he said. “You’re simply the best.”

Turning to look at Col. Stencel, he said with a smile, “Strap yourself in for a wild ride.”

Col. Michael E. Stencel served recently as the wing’s vice commander. He joined the Oregon Air National Guard in 1984, and became an F-4 pilot with the 123rd Fighter Interceptor Squadron the following year. He has worked at Oregon National Guard headquarters, and with the 142nd Civil Engineering Squadron before serving as the Mission Support Group Commander.

Rees praised Stencel for his wide range of experience as a pilot, working with civil engineers, and his work at state headquarters as the State Director of Operations. He said Stencel’s background and experience will help him successfully complete the 142nd Fighter Wing’s upgrade its fleet of F-15s, in addition to maintaining a successful long-term relationship between the wing and the Port of Portland.

“He has a broad background that I think will put him in a good position to be another great commander for the 142nd Fighter Wing,” Rees said.

Brig. Gen. Bruce W. Prunk, Commander of the Oregon Air National Guard, said Stencel’s experience as a traditional guardsman will benefit the unit because of the varied military and civilian experience he brings to his new position.

Oregon Air National Guard Brig. Gen. Bruce W. Prunk, Commander of the Oregon Air National Guard, hands the guidon to Col. Michael E. Stencel during the change of command ceremony for the 142nd Fighter Wing. Stencel became the new wing commander replacing Col. John E. Kent.

“We have a very dedicated core of full time people, but the citizen airmen make up the heart and soul of the organization,” he said.

Stencel told the gathering that the ceremony should serve as a brief moment for the wing to reflect on its capabilities, and to plan for the future before beginning another cycle of deployments and inspections.

“We have a strong foundation in place… a long standing culture of integrity and performance built on your shoulders and the shoulders of the airmen who have come before you,” he said.

Stencel added that the ceremony is less about what he plans to do as commander, and more about what every airman at the wing will accomplish in their own careers. He encouraged wing members to serve by mentoring, leading and by living the Air Force’s core values.

“I challenge you to not just be a member of this organization,” Stencel said. “But to step up and be a leader.”

To see the Oregonian's story, go here.

Col. Michael E. Stencel (seated, left), pauses for a photo with his family after a change of command ceremony at the Portland Air National Guard Base in Portland, Ore., Oct. 17. Pictured from left to right: Stencel's son Nathan, wife Susan, and daughter Nicole. Stencel, who joined the Oregon Air National Guard in 1984 and has served in various leadership roles throughout the organization, assumed command from Col. John E. Kent.

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

Photos by Staff Sgt. John Hughel,
142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Oregon airman to take over as 1st Air Force commander

A former Oregon Air National Guard wing commander has been appointed to lead 1st Air Force, Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command.

Maj. Gen. Garry C. Dean is scheduled to assume the post from the current commander, Maj. Gen. Henry C. Murrow, during a ceremony at Tyndall AFB, Fla., Nov. 12.

"To have one of our own selected to run 1st Air Force is a great honor," said Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, The Adjutant General for the Oregon National Guard.

Dean served under Rees' command when he worked as the State Director of Operations and as the Assistant Adjutant General for Air at Oregon's Joint Forces Headquarters.

Rees said Dean's appointment to lead 1st Air Force is also a testament to the high caliber of people within the Oregon National Guard, and the organization's ability to train its members for leadership roles at the national level and beyond.

"Regardless of where Dean serves, it reflects well on our programs and our development of leaders here in Oregon," Rees said.

Dean is currently the Deputy Inspector General of the Air Force in Washington, D.C., a position he took early last year. We posted a story in December last year, when Dean received his second star. Read it here. He joined the United States Air Force in December 1978, first training at Randolph AFB in Texas before serving as an F-15 pilot in Japan.

He joined the Oregon Air National Guard in March 1990, and has served in several leadership positions at the fighter wing and state headquarters until February 2008.

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

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Oregon Air Guard F-15 Eagles focus of patriotism, controversy

Oregon's F-15 jets have been in the news quite a bit lately.

In late September, the Oregon Air National Guard said goodbye to the last F-15-A model in the U.S. Air Force inventory. The final flight was made by Lt. Col. Steve Beauchamp to the Air Force's boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona. Read our Facebook post on that story here.

On Oct. 6, I published a blog post about some complaints surrounding F-15 flyovers at local college football games. The comments ranged from criticism "killing machines" to supportive praise "Sound of Freedom".

On Monday, Steve Johnson from the Port of Portland issued a press release regarding their review of the PDX Citizen Noise Advisory Committee recommendation issued to the Port last month. They reviewed the CNAC's list of proposed restrictions:

- Military flights restricted to weekdays only.
- Flights only between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
- May only use South runway.
- Weather ceiling at 5,000 feet.
- Minimum of five-mile visibility.
- Only two jets in each formation.
- Submit status reports to committee every six months.

The committee and the Port conducted a test of these procedures from Oct. 2008 to March 2009. The CNAC again observed a test on Aug. 1, 2009, and at their Aug. 13 meeting, discussed their findings, and reviewed noise data and community feedback.

The Port says final coordination is underway between the Federal Aviation Administration and the Oregon Air National Guard.

One thing to consider is the training which Oregon Air Guard pilots must undergo to retain their proficiency and flight status. Flying these aircraft is demanding, to say the least, and if a pilot were to only fly once a month, their skills would be adversely affected.

The Oregon Air Guard continues to support the Air Sovereignty Alert mission, which is vital to protecting the skies over the Pacific Northwest. This airspace extends from Northern California across Washington to the Canadian border. These pilots risk their lives every day to ensure the security of the skies over our home state.

Every member of the Oregon Air National Guard is a proud member of their local community, and they take great pride in representing the best military organization in the world. All of our personnel--in particular our pilots--try very hard to work with the surrounding communities.

The goal is to lessen the impact on residents who live near the airport and our training sites by following FAA guidelines, while at the same time keeping all Oregonians safe by completing a critical security mission.

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

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The people we leave behind: A photo essay (The Oregonian)

Oregon Army National Guard Col. Dan Hokanson, commander of the 41 Infantry Brigade Combat Team, is deployed to Iraq for a year.

His family, comprised of Hokanson's wife Kelly, daughter Victoria, and sons Danny and McKinnon, carry on with their lives in his absence--high school homecomings, senior dances, football games and other highlights of their school year.

This year for the Hokansons is representative of the level of service and sacrifice many Oregonians go through as they see their loved ones deploy to far away lands. This photo essay is a glimpse into the events that shape our lives and our families.
To read the story by Julie Sullivan, go here. To see the special reports and coverage of Oregon's citizen-soldiers in Iraq, follow their coverage here.

Special thanks to Randy Rasmussen of The Oregonian.

Col. Dan Hokanson, commander of the Oregon National Guard's 41 Infantry Brigade Combat Team, in Iraq.

McKinnon, 14, a freshman at McNary High School, walks past his video portrait during the Homecoming assembly.

Mom Kelly gets Victoria, 17, a senior at McNary High, ready for a homecoming assembly.

Victoria Hokanson (right), 17, poses with her court partner, Adam Snitker, at the McNary High School homecoming assembly.
Dan Hokanson's mother, Diann, painted a portrait of the kids dressed in his West Point attire.

Mom Kelly poses with Victoria, 17, a senior at McNary High, after the homecoming assembly.

Danny Hokanson, 16, a junior at McNary High, gets dressed early on assembly day. Most of the flags in the background are gifts from his father, Col. Dan Hokanson, who leads the Oregon National Guard's 41 IBCT through a year deployment in Iraq. The brigade is scheduled to return from their deployment in May 2010.

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

Injured Oregon soldier takes first steps toward recovery

Jeremy Pierce took his first steps toward returning to duty.


The Oregonian Newspaper's Capi Lynn interviewed Spc. Jeremy Pierce, who is recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Pierce took his first steps this week, using a prosthetic limb and two canes. Check out the video below.

You may remember a September blog post where a couple of fellow Oregon soldiers and I went to visit Pierce in his hospital room. We took him a stack of comic books donated by Michael Ring, who owns Bridge City Comics in Portland, Ore. We did a post on his "Comics for the Troops" program back in August.

Although Pierce was on pain medication, he was alert and talkative. He thanked us and fellow Oregonians, as well as his former Alaska Army National Guard members who either came to visit him there at Walter Reed, or who wrote cards and letters of encouragement.

He also asked for chocolate. Seriously, chocolate makes anyone feel better, right?

To read the rest of the story by Capi Lynn, go here. Here is the video of Pierce's first steps toward recovery:

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

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Vietnamese, now US citizen, walks across U.S. to thank America, troops

Army and National Guard veteran Sinh Tho Nguyen, of Fort Worth, Texas, is walking across America to honor the country that gave him citizenship. Photo courtesy of Dallas Morning News.

You think running a marathon or finishing your Army PT test is tough? Check this out...

Army and National Guard veteran, Sinh Tho Nguyen, of Fort Worth, Texas, is walking across America to honor America and its military members.

Yes, I said WALKING. Across the ENTIRE country.

In 1992, Nguyen applied for, and was approved a visa to come visit the United States. He got the visa in 60 days. He soon enlisted in the National Guard and the U.S. Army after moving to the U.S.

He began his journey in Atlantic Beach, Fla., and as recently as Sept. 26, was in Mesa, Ariz. He plans to arrive in San Diego, Calif. by Thanksgiving, averaging about 24 miles per day.

Nguyen carries a U.S. flag, and a sign on his back reading, "Shore to shore, A walk across America to honor those who serve."

To read the Dallas Morning News article about this dedicated patriot, go here.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to find my Nikes so I can go run my daily three miles...

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

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

F-15 flyover of Beaver game spawns heated debate

It seems there's quite a bruhaha developing over a recent Oregon Air National Guard F-15 flyover just before a Beaver game at Reser Stadium in September.

I've done some 'virtual digging', and was able to piece together the progression of discourse on this subject. And rather than weigh in my own personal opinion (that may actually come at a later time), I'll let you take a look through this traffic and formulate your own ideas. (click on the links to see the actual post and the associated comments).

Needless to say, the letters to the editor spawned long threads of commentary, both pro and con. Some of the debate was heated, no doubt. And while there were a lot of great points made, I've clipped just these three main opinion pieces to get you started.

Posted Sept. 22 on the opinion page by Scott Smith of Corvallis:

This is my first football season in Corvallis, after about 10 years living in non-university towns in Oregon. Maybe this is naive on my part, but I was shocked and sickened by the fighter jets flying over Reser (and practically all of Corvallis) this afternoon.

Do we need to spend these thousands of dollars just for a few seconds of boosting the stadium's testosterone level another fraction? Do we really want to celebrate the fact that we've built the most superior tools for killing masses of people instantly from the sky?

There are cheaper ways of making a whole lot of noise for the pregame show; either the athletic department administrators intend to link rooting for OSU with cheering the killing machines, or they have been absolutely careless about their symbols.

In the poorer two-thirds of the world, the sight and sound of the jets mean devastation, loss of family and home.

Enjoy the games, follow the season. But do so as citizens of a wider world, and leave out the militarism.

Scott Smith, Corvallis

Then on Oct. 2, Mel Rydman, a retired Senior Master Sgt. from the Air Force, who now lives in Corvallis had this to say:

I also heard the sound of aircraft over Reser on Saturday. I did not have to turn and look because I knew what it was. It was the "Sound of Freedom" made by F-15 aircraft from the Oregon Air National Guard.

But regarding Scott Smith's Sept. 22 letter, "Lose the fly-over during Beaver football games":

Killing machines? Yes, in a way. Those aircraft were built to intercept and destroy enemy that might try to cause loss of family or home to citizens of the Northwest. For over 50 years, these aircraft and others like them have kept him and his fellow Oregonians safe and secure.

Wasted dollars? Each pilot is required to fly a number of scheduled training flights each month so their skills will always be at the high level needed to complete the unit's mission. Normally these flights are out over the Pacific Ocean where the sounds do not bother us but occasionally they fly them over land.

The pilots, some of them from OSU, fly these "flyovers" at public events to honor military members killed or injured protecting your right to assemble for a football game and live in a peaceful society.

The next time Smith hears that sound, he should bow his head and thank God for these men and women who are serving him.

Mel Rydman, SMS (retired)

And then on Oct. 6, Corvallis resident Harry J. Mallory, opined this tongue-in-cheek response to Mr. Rydman's piece...

Robert Henderson invents a creative reason for why he and other "progressives" should not be subjected to overt displays of pride and patriotism with the event of a single fly-over of Oregon Air Guard F15s at Reser Stadium (Letters, Oct. 2, "Military jet flyover could evoke trauma in some vets").

You see, Henderson was not put off so much by the "ugly display of machismo" and an assumed "slap in the face" toward vaguely identified persons in our community, or the thoughtless "flash of weapons and sounds of war" in "the face of it all." No, no, no. You see, it was about the disrespect shown to veterans who may be suffering from PTSD. That's it. No other pre-loaded ideologically driven doctrine about it. No sir.

Of course it might have been helpful if Mr. Henderson had a single example of a veteran claiming to be traumatized due to this event. So far it seems the only people traumatized by this single fly-over are the so-called progressives.

Harry J. Mallory, Corvallis

Well, there you have it. Feel free to talk amongst yourselves.

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

Oh, one more thing... if there's any doubt about the support our Oregon Air Guard pilots have for the Beavers, check this out:

Monday, October 5, 2009

Oregon Guardsman walks Portland Marathon with the man who saved his life (twice)

Oregon Army National Guard Maj. Dominic Oto (left), and Master Sgt. Jerry Glessman (right), participated in Sunday's Portland Marathon. The pair trained since July, using the opportunity to work through mental and well as physical challenges following a near-death experience in Iraq in 2008. Photo by Michael Lloyd, The Oregonian

Oregon Army National Guard member Maj. Dominic Oto is glad to be alive.

He owes his life to fellow soldier, Master Sgt. Jerry Glessman, who pulled him from a mangled Humvee following an IED attack on their convoy in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan in Sept. 2008. The blast killed Oregon National Guard Capt. Bruno de Solenni. Read a blog post about the one-year anniversary of de Solenni's passing here.

"Jerry pulled me from the wreckage," Oto recalls. "He saved my life."

A week after the incident, Oto was back in the U.S., nursing two herniated discs and a dislocated shoulder. But, he admits, his mind was also a mess.

"I had a lot of guilt over Bruno passing," he said. "I really did feel in my heart of hearts that he was a better man than me."

Then Oto found an outlet.

Yesterday, Oto and the man who saved his life a year ago, walked the 26.2 mile Portland Marathon. He and Glessman wore their Army-issue uniforms, and 35-pound rucksacks.

"People look at us and ask, 'Are you crazy?'" Oto says with a laugh.

The pair started training in July. Oto, who works in Tigard and lives in Monmouth, and Glessman, who works in Salem but lives in Jefferson, were able to do more than just prepare for the marathon.

Oto and Glessman strengthened their minds while they trained their bodies. The pair talked through some of the hardships of surviving that fateful September day back in Iraq. Oto shared with his friend the guilt he carried over de Solenni's death.

"Jerry let me talk about how I feel and how I was doing. He let me work out a lot of stuff," Oto said.

"Jerry told me, 'That was his day. That wasn't your day. If Bruno could come back, he'd say live your life. I'll see you soon enough,'" he added.
So in a way, Glessman saved Oto's life twice.

The duo finished Sunday's marathon in 7 hours 43 minutes. This was the fifth marathon Oto participated in.

"I'm so glad to be alive," Oto says. "I never try to give away the gift that God gave me that day. I try to be a good man."

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

(with special thanks to Kristi Turnquist of the Oregonian)

To read the entire article, please visit the Oregonian website, here.
And check out the great video interview with Oto, "Size 14 boots", put together by The Oregonian: