Thursday, December 27, 2012

Oregon City recruiters don’t stop at the enlistment

Story and photos by Sgt. 1st Class Pete Fritsch, ORARNG Recruiter

For several of the Oregon National Guard’s newest Soldiers, the day after Christmas wasn’t spent sleeping-in or shopping at the mall.

Home for their Holiday Block Leave (HBL), their focus was on developing a plan of integration once their Basic Training/AIT is over.  They received several briefs including how to fill out an ADOS packet, what is offered by the Hero’s 2 Hired campaign, and ROTC opportunities, to name a few.

“I was pleasantly surprised that the recruiters spent so much time talking with us about our plan for when we complete training”, said Pvt. Kayla Peterson, who just completed basic training, and is in her fourth week of AIT at Fort Jackson, in Columbia, S.C.

“I don’t think that anyone else in my platoon back at Fort Jackson had this opportunity over HBL,” she added.

Under the Hometown Recruiting Assistance Program (HRAP), Soldiers who return home for the holidays are allowed to work with their recruiters in lieu of charged leave.  The Oregon City recruiters have also elected to provide a seminar for the new Soldiers to help them understand all of the opportunities that await them when they return home after AIT.

“In Oregon, the CTAP, Yellow Ribbon and other reintegration programs are nationally recognized and have proven to be extremely successful for Soldiers returning from deployments,” said Oregon City recruiter Staff Sgt. Roger Griffin.  “We wanted to bring those same resources to our soldiers returning from their initial training,” he said.

The seminar concluded with Oregon Army National Guard Sgt. Maj. Beau Lintner, 82 Brigade S-1 Sergeant Major, who addressed the new Soldiers and shared his advice for making the most out of their National Guard career.  Most important, he told them how to stay on track with promotions.

“The future of the Oregon National Guard looks bright after what I saw and heard today,” Lintner said.  “These professional young Soldiers asked questions that show me they are eager to be problem solvers and future leaders in our organization,” he added.  “It was an honor for me to welcome them home.”

The newly-minted Oregon Soldiers are due to report back to their various training sites including Fort Jackson, Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Sill, Okla.; and Fort Gordon, Ga. between Jan. 1-3.  Some have as few as three weeks remaining in their training while others will continue training for up to 11 weeks.

Participants agreed that they are eager to return and complete their training but even more excited to have their first drill with their Oregon Guard units.  In turn, the Oregon National Guard will be happy to welcome them back.

More information regarding the Oregon City recruiters and their upcoming events, visit them on Facebook here.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Project Healing Waters program helps veterans adjust

PACIFIC CITY, Ore. -- The Nestucca River is calm and quiet on a fall September morning, except for the buzz of a group of men and women, their rods and their boats.

At first glance, they appear to be fishermen and women eagerly anticipating a day full of fly fishing and wondering what luck they'll have.
But this group is different. For them, it's not so much about the catch, as the experience on the river.

The people here are all part of a program called Project Healing Waters. It's a national non-profit, but locally has been coordinated in the Portland-Vancouver area for six years. The program is geared for disabled veterans and active duty military personnel who rehabilitate both emotionally and physically through fly-tying and fly fishing.

These veterans say what they get out of it varies just as much as their service records and injuries.

George Lonnee is a Marine who served in the Vietnam War in 1965-66 and 1968-69.
"I'm glad I went, but it was an experience that stayed with me for 40 years," Lonnee said. "I got shrapnel, buried alive from incoming mortars. It was pretty traumatic."

Lonnee suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and he attends counseling every Wednesday. Out on the water, he still thinks about the past.
"I think about Vietnam and what we left behind and what we have that these guys are giving to us that's emotional," Lonnee said about Project Healing Waters. 
He said he's been on two other fly-fishing outings, where veterans are paired up one on one as they drift on the water. Learning how to cast properly, focusing on the rhythm and movement.

Lonnee said Project Healing Waters has helped him tremendously, and even his family has noticed a big difference. He said he's benefited from the program and his connection with another veteran on one boat has helped him personally.
"I"ve mellowed out a bit. I don't have so much anger; I want to go on with life, that's what's neat. I still think of Vietnam and it's tough some times without Bob, I would have never done it."

"They're not just sitting there sewing leather wallets. It's really therapy in the sense that they get to be out in the community," said local Project Healing Waters coordinator Jerry Lorang.
Lorang said each year, for the last six, they've done two workshops a month and six to eight fishing trips a year. He said each of the boats used for the outing on the Nestucca River are donated, as is the time by the guides.

Lorang said the program has benefited countless veterans, in so many ways.
"To a fisherman, I don't have to explain it.  Fishing is therapeutic, it's something we do because it's an escape and it's a wonderful opportunity and we get to do it in some of the most beautiful places in the world," he said.
"They're developing fine motor skills they can develop socialization skills because they're out in the world with others. They get a chance to get away but at the same time do something productive and recreational," said Lorang of the veterans in the program.

Theresa Chinn says the social experience specifically with other veterans is a huge part of why she enjoys the program.
"I've been real isolated for quite some time, so to be in a social experience with people you don't have to explain anything to is kind of like baby steps towards getting out of my house again," said Chinn, who was in the army in 1976-1979. Her knees and feet collapsed while on active duty service, followed by other traumatic events.

While they only caught a few fish, Chinn says it's not about the fight for the fish, which they'd release anyways.  It's not even about casting the perfect line.
"It's calming, like yoga for your brain," said Chinn.

Out on the river, the veterans get to be themselves. Although they're paired up with one other person, they're also surrounded by support, camaraderie and in a pressure free environment. 
"When you're around other veterans, there's an unspoken understanding. We're a cohort," said Chinn.

"We're all brothers. I don't care if they're Marine, Air Force, Army or whatever. We're all there for each other. Trust is the biggest thing, it's not about war stories, it's about making you feel good," said Lonnee.

For many of these veterans, Project Healing Waters might not take away all of the pain, but it is making a big difference for the folks who are dealing with very real problems in their lives.
"They walk away looking like they swallowed a coat hanger because they've got huge smiles on their face, that means so much to me I don't know how else to say it but that it fills my life," said Lorang.

To find out more about this program, visit their Facebook page.

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

142 Security Forces Squadron mobilizes for Qatar

121211-Z-CH590-052 by oregonmildep

121211-Z-CH590-052, a photo by oregonmildep on Flickr.
Mr. Cameron Smith, representing Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, receives a framed unit guidon from Oregon Air National Guard Master Sgt. Derek Moore, 142 Security Forces Squadron, during the unit’s mobilization ceremony at Camp Withycombe in Clackamas, Ore., Dec. 11. The unit guidon will hang in the governor’s office throughout the 142 SFS deployment as a reminder of the approximately 30 Oregon sons and daughters who are answering the nation’s call overseas. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. John Hughel, 142 Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Oregon's 142nd Fighter Wing welcomes new commander

121202-Z-CH590-268 by oregonmildep
121202-Z-CH590-268, a photo by oregonmildep on Flickr.

Story by Staff Sgt. Brandon Boyd, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs.

PORTLAND AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Portland, Ore.— Oregon Air National Guard Col. Richard W. Wedan, former 142nd Fighter Wing vice commander, assumed command of the 142nd Fighter wing from Col. Michael E. Stencel during a change of command ceremony Dec. 2.

The wing’s colors were passed to Wedan during the ceremony, heavy with the responsibility and significance of leading the storied group called the Redhawks.

In his previous role as the vice wing commander, Wedan assisted in leading over 1,000 personnel in the execution of the F-15 aerospace control alert mission defending the Pacific Northwest, worldwide deployments, and domestic operations. The supporting role now becomes the leading role.

The outgoing commander thanked his family for their support during his tenure and the distinguished guests for attending the ceremony. Stencel also addressed the members of the 142nd in attendance, thanking them for their contributions, leadership and sacrifices that helped the wing achieve each mission.

During the ceremony, Wedan thanked Stencel in turn, for his leadership and tireless work ethic.

“Mike, you are truly a great man of tremendous character,” said Wedan.

As wing commander, Wedan will oversee the 142nd Fighter Wing just as Airmen prepare for an upcoming Combined Unit Exercise (CUE) scheduled for July, 2012.

During the ceremony, Wedan laid out a four-point leadership plan for the future of the 142nd Fighter Wing focusing on the homeland defense mission, base facilities, community engagement, recruitment and retention.

“I challenge you to embrace the endeavor through your whole-hearted contribution and best efforts,” said Wedan.

Wedan enlisted in the Minnesota Air National Guard in 1988 as a command post controller with the 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth, Minn., attended undergraduate pilot training at Vance Air Force Base, and received his initial F-16 training at Kingsley Field, in Klamath Falls, Ore., in 1991.

In 1997, Wedan returned to Oregon as an instructor pilot with the 173rd Fighter Wing at Kingsley Field, where he served for 12 years prior to being assigned to Oregon’s Joint Force Headquarters for three years as the director of operations.