Thursday, November 29, 2012

Oregon signs historic State Partnership agreement with Vietnam

Oregon National Guard Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees (left), Adjutant General, Oregon, and Vietnam Lt. Gen. Tran Quang Khue, Vice Chairman of the National Committee for Search and Rescue (VINASARCOM), sign the State Partnership Program agreement at the Ministry of Defense Guest House in Hanoi, Vietnam, Nov. 27.  U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam David Shear (center, yellow tie), and other Oregon and Vietnam officials look on.  The State Partnership Program reflects an evolving international affairs mission for the National Guard, emphasizing its unique state-federal and civil-military characteristics to interact with both the active and reserve forces of foreign nations, interagency partners, and international non-governmental organizations.  Oregon also has a partnership with Bangladesh.  (Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy Hanoi).

HANOI, Vietnam—The Oregon National Guard has signed a partnership with Vietnam as part of the State Partnership Program during a ceremony held Nov. 27 at the Ministry of Defense Guest House in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, Adjutant General, Oregon, signed the agreement with Vietnam Lt. Gen. Tran Quang Khue, Vice Chairman of the National Committee for Search and Rescue (VINASARCOM).

U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam David Shear, Oregon Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Todd Plimpton, Assistant Adjutant General (Army), Oregon Air National Guard Col. Mark Crosby, Oregon’s State Partnership Program Director, and other Vietnam officials were on hand for the signing.

The agreement comes just as the United States begins ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.  Events and commemorations to honor era veterans and casualties are scheduled in both countries through the year 2025.  For more information on anniversary observances, go here.

The State Partnership Program reflects an evolving international affairs mission for the National Guard, emphasizing its unique state-federal and civil-military characteristics to interact with both the active and reserve forces of foreign nations, interagency partners, and international non-governmental organizations.

State partners participate in a broad range of security cooperation activities to include homeland defense/security, disaster response/mitigation, consequence/crisis management, interagency cooperation, border/port/aviation security, combat medical, fellowship-style internships, and bilateral familiarization events that lead to training and exercise opportunities.

The State Partnership Program currently supports 62 partnerships between states and nations.  For more information about the program, download the SPP factsheet here.

The Oregon National Guard is also partnered with Bangladesh.

For more information contact Staff Sgt. Joseph Barto, State Partnership Program, at, or 503-584-2237.

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

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Oregon's Assistant Adjutant General joins local leaders for Veterans Day ceremony at Vancouver Barracks

121111-Z-CH590-003 by oregonmildep
121111-Z-CH590-003, a photo by oregonmildep on Flickr.

Oregon Air National Guard Brig. Gen. Bruce W. Prunk, Assistant Adjutant Gen. Air; U.S. Army Col. Peter Norseth; Ann Rivers, State Senator for the 18th district; Vancouver Mayor Timothy D. Levitt; and Dan Tarbell, event Co-Chairman, render honors during a wreath laying ceremony at the Veterans Day event held at the Fort Vancouver Barracks post cemetery in Vancouver, Wash., Nov. 11. (Oregon Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. John Hughel, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

Future military members honor veterans at University of Portland ceremony

121111-Z-TK422-844 by oregonmildep
121111-Z-TK422-844, a photo by oregonmildep on Flickr.

A Cadet Honor Guard from the University of Portland presents the colors during the Praying Hands Memorial at the University of Portland campus in Portland, Ore., Nov. 11. Air Force and Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadets participated in the ceremony, following a 24-hour vigil held at the campus to honor veterans of all branches of the military. Oregon Air National Guard Brig. Gen. Steven D. Gregg, Commander, Oregon Air National Guard, was the featured speaker at the event. (Photo by Master Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs).

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Oregon Soldiers and Airmen celebrate Veterans Day at annual parade in Albany, Ore.

121110-Z-OT568-006 by oregonmildep
121110-Z-OT568-006, a photo by oregonmildep on Flickr.

Senior Airman Brittany Corr (right), Oregon Air National Guard Category I Airman of the Year, Spc. Ryan Johnson (center), Oregon Army National Guard Soldier of the Year, and State Command Sgt. Maj. Shane Lake (left), watch from the reviewing stand during the Veterans Day Parade, Nov. 10, in Albany, Ore. It is customary for the Oregon National Guard to host Airmen and Soldiers of the year in the reviewing stand at the annual event. (Photo by Staff Sgt. April Davis, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Stolen WWII medals reinstated to Soldier's sister

121109-Z-TK422-788 by oregonmildep
121109-Z-TK422-788, a photo by oregonmildep on Flickr.
David Funk (right), Chairman of the 41st Infantry Division Association, presents Rosetta LaBonte, of Portland, Ore., with the Purple Heart medal at the Oregon National Guard's Open House at Camp Withycombe, in Clackamas, Ore., Nov. 9, as former Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski looks on.

The medals, which were stolen during a home burglary, were bestowed to LaBonte's family following numerous inquiries by Funk as he worked through various government agencies to have the medals reinstated.

LaBonte's brother, Sgt. Eli A. DuMonte, who was a member of the Oregon Army National Guard's 41st Infantry Division during WWII, was killed during the battle of Biak in 1944.  He was posthumously awarded the medals.

"This was the right thing to do, and I wasn't going to take no for an answer," Funk said, speaking about the government bureaucracy he faced trying to get the medals reinstated.

Funk also faced the challenge presented by archived military records in St. Louis, Mo., which had been destroyed in a fire in 1973. Undaunted, Funk queried several government agencies, and tracked down a fellow Soldier of DuMonte in order to obtain sworn statements supporting the original awarding of the medals.

"This is for my brother, but it's really for my mother and my family," LaBonte said following the ceremony in the second floor auditorium.

The 41st Infantry Division's deployment during WWII was the longest on record, and involved the largest number of Oregon Soldiers.  Personnel were primarily assigned to the Pacific Theater of Operations, fighting in several key battles, including Biak and New Guinea.

The ceremony was attended by about 100 local business leaders, Oregon National Guard leadership, and well-wishers.

The Camp Withycombe open house also brought together several groups, including Native American Tribal members, Oregon National Guard Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen, veterans groups, and area residents.

A portion of the ceremony included a presentation of donations by local businesses for the renovation of the Oregon Military Museum, located at Camp Withycombe.  Three companies each donated $50,000 at the event.

For more information on the 41st Inf. Div. Association, go here.  For more information on the Oregon Historical Outreach Foundation, and the capital campaign to raise funds for the renovation of the Oregon Military Museum, visit their website here.

Photo by Master Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Veterans Day for Oregon's Airmen, 1944

Story by Terrence G. Popravak, Jr., Lt Col, USAF (Retired),
142nd Fighter Wing Historian

As we celebrate Veterans Day, let us remember the original members of the Oregon National Guard’s first aviation unit, the 123rd Observation Squadron, who remained in the unit all through its World War II existence, including the wartime overseas deployment to China. 

Redesignated as the 35th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron (35PRS) before going overseas (and as the 123rd Fighter Squadron after the war), these Oregonians and many other American Airmen of the wartime 35PRS operated the F-5E Photo Lightning in the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater of operations.

On Nov. 11, 1944, the squadron’s George Flight, a small detachment of four aircraft and required personnel, was operational at the forward airfield of Yunnanyi, 130 miles west of Kunming near the Burma border. 

On this day, known then as Armistice Day, 1st Lts. William W. Dean III (later MIA) and Estal W. Behrens (later KIA) flew combat aerial reconnaissance missions. 

Dean flew F-5E #806 on a two-hour 30-minute photo recon mission along a strip in between Bhamo, in the northern part of Burma, eastward across the border back into China at Manhsien.

Behrens flew F-5E #810 on a two-hour and 45 minute “Tri-Met” mission along a portion of the famed Burma Road from Wanling south to Lashio.  The Trimetrogon configuration of two oblique right and left cameras and one vertical camera was used for aerial photo-mapping, a welcome capability in the poorly charted expanses of the CBI.

Both missions were flown over enemy occupied areas of Burma surrounding the northern part of the Burma Road, toward which Allied forces from India and China were approaching in the hard-fought Burma campaign of 1944.

Just a few days before, on Nov. 5, 1944, the squadron lost its first member in the war, when 1Lt Franklin H. McKinney was declared missing in action.  Recently a report by the government of Thailand reported that his F-5E aircraft, #811 has been found in Ban Mae Gua, Sobprab Sub-District, Lampang Province in Thailand.  This report has yet to be verified.

As Armistice Day, 1944 progressed westward across the planet to the Europe Theater of Operations (ETO), the 371st Fighter Group (371FG, today’s 142nd Fighter Wing) was involved in split operations.  Group personnel were at Dole Airfield in eastern France not far from the Swiss border, and the group’s P-47 Thunderbolt fighter-bombers were at Dijon Airfield, some 30 miles to the northwest of Dole.  The aircraft were flown to Dijon as a result of flooding at Dole the day before due to the Doubs river overflowing its banks.  Back in the Dole tents, mess halls and line equipment were hastily moved to higher ground as the floodwaters spread.

The group was informed that it would continue these split operations between Dole and Dijon until the Doubs receded and the aircraft were able to return to Dole, which turned out to be 11 days later.  However, on Nov. 11, the weather was terrible and there was no flying at all.  Rain, mud, snow and flood would hamper the group’s plans.

In this period the 371FG was flying missions in and out of nasty weather in support of the Franco-American 6th Army Group, which included the U.S. Seventh Army.  In the last week of October, the group’s 405th Fighter Squadron had just flown a remarkable series of aerial resupply missions in support of the “Lost Battalion” in Vosges Mountains, many in miserable weather, losing 1Lt Robert A. Booth and two P-47 aircraft in the process.

The service and sacrifice of the personnel in these flying units on Armistice Day, 1944, in China, Burma and in France, gives an inspiring example of service and sacrifice for us today.  On many subsequent Armistice Days since WWII, and continuously since the early 1960s, men and women of the ORANG’s 142nd Fighter Wing have maintained Aerospace Control Alert, serving and sacrificing on what for many citizens is perhaps just another holiday. 

But it’s not just any holiday.  We should pause on Veterans Day to remember and honor our veterans and all their years of dedicated duty for our community, state and nation, whether overseas or stateside now, at war in 1944 or in peace today, ready to defend, 24/7.