Saturday, January 30, 2010

Oregon Air Guard "Redhawks" raise the bar on 2010 Polar Plunge

Oregon Air National Guard "Redhawks" team members prepare to take the 'plunge' into the frigid waters of the Columbia River, as part of the 2010 Polar Plunge--an event which benefits the Special Olympics. The event took place at Broughton Beach in north Portland, Jan. 30. The team raised over $11,000.

Braving frigid waters and cool air temperatures, members of the Oregon Air National Guard's 142nd Fighter Wing "Redhawks" made a difference in a local charity event in Portland today.

Fifty-two airmen from the Portland Air National Guard Base took part in today’s Polar Plunge—an event which benefits the Special Olympics.

In 2009, a group of Oregon airmen came to the event, but only 15 Redhawks made the plunge. This year, thanks in part to the effort of Oregon Air Guard member, and plunge team captain, Staff Sgt. Jared Johnson, the number of plungers tripled, while the amount of donations doubled.

“It was pretty easy to recruit plungers,” Johnson said. “A lot of people are community service oriented, so it wasn’t too hard to get them to jump in a freezing river.”

Johnson got involved with Special Olympics when he helped hand out medals to the athletes years ago. He said the experience changed him forever.

“It’s very humbling seeing the athletes and their parents and the level of dedication (they have),” he said. “It changes your perspective on a lot of things.”

Near the Columbia River, under gray skies, the large crowd of ‘plungers’ and their supporters made their way to Broughton Beach, located just off NE Marine Drive, near NE 33rd Ave. The event took on a festive nature, in spite of the light rain, overcast skies, and 40-degree air temperatures.

Rescue swimmers patrolled the river next to a Multnomah County Sheriff’s rescue boat, next to a floating boundary located about 30 feet from the water’s edge. A Portland Fire Department fire boat sprayed water from its hoses out in the shipping channel.

Local news celebrity, Drew Carney, hosted the event from the main stage set up under a large white tent. He introduced each of the teams as they approached the water’s edge. Many were dressed in costumes, or wore brightly colored hats.

The first team to enter the Columbia was made up of the Portland Police Department and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s office. Led by Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer, the large group, dressed in police working uniforms, charged the water with reckless abandon. Some made their way out to their colleagues in the deeper water.

The airmen were next.

Wearing various types of shirts, the Redhawk team was easily distinguished by their Airmen Battle Uniform pants. As Carney introduced the team, another cheer arose from the crowd of onlookers. Photographers snapped pictures as the countdown began.

“Three… Two… One!” Carney screamed into his microphone.

In a flurry of yelling, flying sand, and splashing water, the airmen sprinted into the freezing Columbia as a group. Some made it only to waist-level, while others negotiated the sandy bottom to make it out to the rescue swimmers near the boat. They wanted to meet the challenge issued by the previous group of plungers.

When it was all said and done, Tech. Sgt. Misty Gremaud said she wished she had not worn her ABU pants.

“They got really heavy and it was hard to move,” she said with a laugh. “Next year, I’m wearing shorts!”

Chief Master Sgt. Max White, 142nd Fighter Wing Command Chief, said the 40-degree waters of the Columbia River didn’t really seem that cold.

“In Germany, they would say the water was ‘frisch!’,” he said.

White said the camaraderie made the event all the more worth the effort, but he gave special thanks to Johnson who helped motivate other airmen to join in the plunge.

“I’d like to thank the Redhawks from the 142 FW who plunged into the Columbia today to raise money for Special Olympics,” White said.

Gremaud said she was looking forward to next year’s plunge.

”It was very exciting,” she said. “I loved the frenzy of it all!”

Johnson, who serves on the Law Enforcement Torch Run Executive Council, said he hopes to see an even bigger turnout next year.

“The (fighter) wing gets involved because of Security Forces being involved and the connections to law enforcement,” Johnson said. “But I really think the entire fighter wing needs to get involved in the future.

Johnson hopes to see 100 or more plungers representing the fighter wing next year, in addition to all the supervisors and commanders providing support. One thing is for sure—White will be there. With the water from this year’s plunge still wet on his body, he’s already started planning for next year.

“Sign me up right now for next year,” White said as he toweled off.

Just over $11,000 was raised by the Oregon Air National Guard members for Special Olympics, Johnson said.

For more information on the Special Olympics Polar Plunge, go here.

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

Friday, January 29, 2010

Oregon Air Guard Command Chief plans to "plunge" into volunteerism

Chief Master Sgt. Max White (right), with several other airmen from the 142nd Fighter Wing, after taking the plunge in the frigid waters of the Columbia River in 2009. This year, a number of Oregon Air Guard members will join the estimated 250 plungers on Saturday, Jan. 30, in an event to benefit the Special Olympics.

My body may be cold, but my heart will be warm as I plunge into the frigid Columbia River on Saturday morning.

I will be part of the 142 Fighter Wing Redhawk Group that has raised roughly $10,000 for Oregon Special Olympics. Last year we had about a dozen plungers from the 142 FW, but this year I am anticipating around 50 brave souls to show up. And we will be part of a larger sea of hundreds of selfless folks who have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for this most worthy cause.

The driving force for the 142 FW Redhawks is Staff Sgt. Jarrod Johnson of the Security Forces Squadron. His almost insane enthusiasm for this cause is contagious. He and Master Sgt. Matt Kochosky of the Operations Group convinced me to take part in this event last year.

Now I am determined to participate every year, and will continue to be a huge proponent of this event. As Command Chief for the 142nd Fighter Wing, one of my top priorities is community service. I should add that it is just as important for our Oregon Air Guard Commander, Brig. Gen. Bruce Prunk, and our 142nd Fighter Wing Commander, Col. Mike Stencel.

Moreover, volunteerism is a prime example of the second core value of the Air Force; Service Before Self.

I have butterflies just thinking about this event! I can hardly wait!

Chief Master Sgt. Max White,
142nd Fighter Wing Command Chief

Chief White did this last year as well. To see the blog post, go here.

Proceeds raised from this event benefit The Special Olympics. If you want more information on the Polar Plunge in Portland, which is scheduled to take place at Broughton Beach in the Columbia River, Saturday, Jan. 30, go here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Oregonian of the Week: Oregon Air National Guard doctor maks a difference in Haiti relief effort

Oregon Air National Guard flight surgeon, Anil Menon, MD, in Haiti with recovering earthquake victims. Menon is currently in Haiti assisting with earthquake relief efforts as part of the Standford University Medical Team.

A few days ago I got wind of an Oregon Air National Guard member who is currently helping with ongoing relief efforts in Haiti.

Dr. Anil Menon, a clinical instructor in the field of surgery and emergency medicine at Stanford School of Medicine is in Haiti helping victims of the severe earthquake, which struck the region Jan. 12.

Menon, a member of the Oregon Air National Guard's 173rd Fighter Wing in Klamath Falls, has been sending regular e-mails to Baratunde Thurston, web editor for The Onion, comedian, and self-proclaimed pundit. Thurston has been religiously posting Menon's stories and photos on his blog. You can follow Thurston's blog here.

As news coming out of Haiti waxes and wanes in the national media spotlight, Menon's periodic blog posts cast a human touch on a tragic natural disaster. You won't find any geo-political discourse here... just an Oregon doctor trying to save as many lives as he can.

And for that, I nominate him our "Oregonian of the Week".

To follow Dr. Anil Menon's posts, and to view his touching photos, go here.

Dr. Anil S. Menon is a flight surgeon with the 173rd Fighter Wing in Klamath Falls. He is currently in Haiti as part of the Standford University Medical Team sent there to help earthquake victims.

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

If you know of someone you would like to nominate as the Oregon National Guard's "Oregonian of the Week", please drop me a line at:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Oregon National Guard family members used online tools to bridge deployment gaps

Family members join Oregon National Guard members at the Army Aviation Support Facility #1 in Salem, Ore., Jan. 25, to welcome home the approximately 120 soldiers of the Oregon Army National Guard's C/7-158 Aviation unit, who deployed to Iraq for one year. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Eric Rutherford, Oregon Army National Guard Public Affairs Office).

About 400 people packed into the Oregon Army National Guard's Army Aviation Support Facility #1 in Salem, Ore., Jan. 25, to welcome home members of C/7-158 Aviation, following their year-long deployment to Iraq.

As I stood amongst the many family members, fellow Oregon National Guard members, friends, and children of the soldiers who stood in formation yesterday, I came to the realization that while there is a wonderful story to tell about what these brave men and women accomplished half a world away, there was also another story to tell--the stories from their families.

I noticed in the list of accomplishments for the unit, there was also a list of other accomplishments. During the deployment, members completed 100 college credits, and participated in morale & welfare programs such as the America's Got Talent Balad, in which one soldier won the 2009 title.

What caught my attention were those who got married, and the five children who were born during the deployment.

One soldier, Spc. Michael Buchan, scheduled his mid-deployment leave so that he could be home in time for the birth of his daughter Brooklyn, who was born Sept. 14. He requested leave around her due date, and Brooklyn's mom, Sallie Bakke was induced after he arrived home.

Brooklyn is known to Buchan's family as the 'miracle baby'.

Sallie wasn't even supposed to be pregnant--after surviving breast cancer, she found out she was pregnant just before Buchan's unit was set to leave for Iraq.

"It's been such a cool experience," he said.

After heading back to Iraq, Buchan kept in touch with his new family using online tools.

"I saw her almost every day on Skype," Buchan said as he held his daughter following the demobilization ceremony.

For Megan Lulay, whose husband, Capt. Adam Lulay is still in Iraq, the ceremony was bittersweet. As the deployment for C/7-158 drew to a close, Adam transferred to the 41 Infantry Brigade Combat Team to help them with their deployment.

He was able to schedule his mid-deployment leave to coincide with the birth of the Lulay's daughter, Abigail on Feb. 16--only two weeks after the unit left Oregon.

"Adam barely made it home in time," Megan said.

Indeed, Adam arrived at Willamette Falls Hospital in Oregon City four hours before Abigail was born.

Megan, who also serves as the unit's Family Programs Coordinator, said the separation has been stressful at times, but she and Abigail are also able to keep in touch with Adam using online tools.

"We Skype," Megan said. "She (Abigail) can see him, and recognizes him. She even calls him 'daddy'."

Adam is scheduled to return to Oregon in about a month.

For the unit's First Sergeant, 1SG Travis Powell, the deployment included nuptual plans. He married his fiance, Jill, on Sept. 27.

She said while planning the wedding was stressful, they kept everything 'simple', as well as flexible to allow for changes in schedules and flights.

Jill said her husband-to-be chose a unique way to propose. He purchased a carved wooden jewelry box in Iraq, and mailed it to Jill back in Oregon. It contained a wedding ring and a note.

"When you read this, I'm down on one knee in Iraq proposing to you," the note said. "Will you marry me?"

Jill immediately contacted Travis on Facebook.

"Because I wanted to contact him as soon as possible," she said.

Travis was able to secure a "window of opportunity" for his mid-deployment leave in order to tie the knot.

The ceremony was successful in spite of the fluid nature of Travis' leave. Most of the guests and attendees were already in Oregon, and Jill's parents flew in from Colorado for their special day. After several days of post-marital bliss, Travis rejoined his unit in Iraq.

"It's the little things that kept me going," Jill said of her husband's deployment. She and her children Brendon and Audrey kept in touch with Travis via e-mail, Skype and Facebook.

Jill and Travis shared a quiet moment following the unit's demobilization ceremony. Caught in an embrace, Jill answered the question, "What now?"

"On to home projects--the 'honey-do' list," she said with a laugh. But we're so proud of him and glad he's home."

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

To see a related Oregonian article on yesterday's demobilization ceremony, along with a slide show by Oregonian photographer, Torsten Kjellstrand, go here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The world got a little dimmer today

Brig. Gen. (ret.) Fred M. Rosenbaum
June 30, 1926 - Jan. 12, 2010

Sorry for the lack of blog posts, I've been away on vacation for a couple of weeks.

I learned of some sad news upon my arrival in the office today. Early this morning, retired Brig. Gen. Fred Rosenbaum passed away in his home, following a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 83 years old.

Anyone who knows Fred Rosenbaum may also know of the annual youth camp he founded in 1972, which, to this day, bears his name. Camp Rosenbaum is dedicated to empowering young Oregonians to stay in school, avoid gangs and drugs, and to realize their hopes and dreams.

The genesis for Camp Rosenbaum came out of his own personal challenges as a youngster of the Jewish faith, growing up in Austria. During the German occupation of his homeland in the days leading up to WWII, a young Fred was spirited away in the middle of the night to England, where he would await the arrival of his parents sometime later. Fred's extended family didn't fare as well--his grandparents were later killed in one of the Nazi concentration camps.

He enlisted in the United States Army in 1944 at the age of 17. He hoped to be assigned to the European theater, where he could help push back Axis aggressors, but instead, he ended up fighting in the Pacific.

Two years after his discharge from the Army in 1946, he joined the Oregon Army National Guard, and was assigned as the First Sergeant for HQ Company, 162nd Infantry. After a short stint as an officer with the Washington National Guard, he joined the Oregon Air National Guard in 1953.

He served in various positions before being appointed as the Assistant Adjutant General for Air, in late 1980. He later retired from the military in 1986.

Rosenbaum dedicated his life to the people and the world around him. Organizations such as Portland State University, Congregation Beth Israel, The Housing Authority of Portland--where he served as Chairman for 13 years--and various other civic groups benefitted from his insight, vision and wisdom.

Never wanting the world to forget the challenges which brought him through his life's work, he also played a major role in the fruition of the Portland Holocaust Memorial, and remained active in other civic and political groups, right up to the very end of his life.

Ever the entrepreneur, he founded the insurance brokerage, Rosenbaum Financial, in 1957, a company which is now run by his son, Mark.

Those who worked with him knew he was very "hands-on". Fred preferred to pick up the phone and discuss ways of improving how things were done--be it CEOs of companies, the Mayor of Portland, or senior leadership in the Oregon National Guard--they all eventually got a phone call from Fred. And they were better because of it.

But he did all these things in a way that made you want to help. He was, and continues to be through his legacy, the "Great Motivator". He made an art out of motivating people to do better, be better, or to do more. But he did more than that. He led by example. A quick scan of his six-page biography reveals more accomplishments and accolades than several men combined. His list of awards alone fills an entire page.

In 2010, his namesake youth camp, Camp Rosenbaum, will celebrate its 40th anniversary. With about 100-160 youngsters from Oregon and Southwest Washington attending this camp every year for the last four decades, the reach and influence of Fred Rosenbaum's vision to improve the world around him is overwhelming.

My wife and I were privileged to have spoken to Gen. Rosenbaum and Jane, his wife of 55 years, just before our Hawaii trip this past December. They were both in good spirits, looking forward to the upcoming holidays. Fred even joked with my wife about our upcoming one-year anniversary, saying that by marrying her, I had "married up".

I entitled this post "The world got a little dimmer today." Let me clarify: that statement is only to mark the passing of a great man who did great things while he was with us. There is no doubt in my mind that those of us who were touched and influenced by his kindness, warmth and generosity, will ensure a bright future for his enduring legacy.

Farewell Fred Rosenbaum. You will be missed by all.

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

Postscript: A public memorial ceremony for Fred Rosenbaum is scheduled for Noon on Tuesday, Jan. 19, in Building 375 (Rosenbaum Hangar), at the Portland Air National Guard Base in Portland, Oregon. Members of the public are welcome. Please bring personal identification to access the Air Base. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to the following organizations:

- The Camp Rosenbaum Fund: c/o GREAT, 449 NE Emerson St., Portland, OR 97221, Attn: Erin Parks

- Portland State University Foundation: P.O. Box 243, Portland, OR 97043

- American Cancer Society: Online at, look for the "Gifts in Memory" link

- Congregation Beth Israel: 1972 NW Flanders St., Portland, OR 97209

Special thanks to KGW News Channel 8 for their wonderful tribute video to Fred Rosenbaum: