Monday, February 23, 2015

Testing the mind, body and soul: Oregon's Soldiers meet at the Oregon coast to vie for the title of 'best of the best'

Above: Oregon Army National Guard Sgt. Joseph Cunningham, with C Company, 7-158 Aviation, carries two ammo cans filled with cement during the final event of the 2014 Oregon Best Warrior Competition, 15 March, Camp Rilea, Warrenton, Oregon. Twenty-one Soldiers endured mental and physical tests while competing to become Oregon’s best Non-Commissioned Officer and best Soldier of the year. The winners will go forward to represent the state of Oregon at the Region VI competition later this year.

Story and photos by Sgt. Betty Boyce, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs

WARRENTON, Oregon--Twenty-one of the Oregon Army National Guard’s top soldiers from around the state came to Camp Rilea, in Warrenton, Ore., to put their mental and physical strengths to the test, March 14-16, 2014, to compete for the titles of best non-commissioned officer and best soldier of the year.

Throughout the weekend, they conquered obstacles and rose above adversity to prove their intestinal fortitude.
According to the cadre overseeing the competition, Oregon set the bar high by creating an endeavor that is unmatched. Soldiers said they were pushed toward their breaking point at each event throughout the three-day competition.

“With my years of service and training, I have never been pushed to this point. I was thinking of ways to fake injuries to get out of it, but I knew I had to keep going and finish this,” said Sgt. 1st Class Scott Stimpson, with the Recruiting and Retention Battalion, after the competition was over.

“And I’m so glad I finished; I wanted this so bad,” he continued.

Left: Oregon Army National Guard Spc. Anthony Olsen, with the 1249th Engineer Battalion, pulls himself up a rope while competing in the 2014 Best Warrior Competition, 15 March, at Camp Rilea in Warrenton, Oregon.

The event kicked off Friday evening, March 14, with an essay, followed by an eight-mile run in the dark along a trail of chem-lights. The next morning, after just a couple hours of rest, they took the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) followed by an obstacle course, and then another three-mile run with their rucksacks and helmets.

By late morning on the second day, the competitors were given an order of events with a map and grid coordinates. Each competitor was responsible for plotting their points and finding their way to the marked events, which were scattered from one end of Camp Rilea to the other.

The day looked like it was ending, as the sky turned dark and the wind and rain amplified. The competitors were finally trickling in to the barracks after their long day of events. They were wet, and their steps were more like short shuffles as they groaned with exhaustion.

At a time when you would least feel like dressing up, the competitors were briefed they had one hour to complete personal hygiene, change into their dress uniform, and report to Warrior Hall for a formal board where a panel of sergeants major tested their military knowledge. As they sat and waited for their name to be called, many stared blankly, several closed their eyes, and a few massaged strained muscles. Once they were finished with the board, they were sent back to their barracks for several hours of rest which they would need for the last day’s events.

The third and final day began with grouping and zeroing their M4 carbine weapons and from there they moved to the range for qualification, where they would shoot 40 rounds and hope to beat their opponents.

“I feel like a new man after getting that much rest,” said Sgt. Joshua Martin, with Joint Force Headquarters. “I’m ready to finish this thing.”

Above: Oregon Army National Guard Soldier listens to instruction for an event during the 2014 Oregon Best Warrior Competition, 15 March, at Camp Rilea, in Warrenton, Oregon.

Once all the competitors were finished at the range, the cadre quickly put them in route to their final event: Omaha Beach. This event was designed to replicate that day back in 1944 during World War II when, under heavy fire, engineers struggled to exit their boats and swim to shore to secure the beaches of Normandy.

The competitors laid waiting in the sand for a wave to hit them before they could start the event. They had to crawl approximately 25 yards in the sand and water before reaching two cement-filled ammunition cans. They had to pick up those “ammo” cans and carry them 100 yards, up a 70-foot elevation to the top of a sand hill before running all the way back to the surf for the finish.

“This was so much harder than I thought it would be. I flipped over in the surf and had to regain my senses, and when I hit that incline up the sand hill, I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest,” said Spc. Darlene Jordan, with Joint Force Headquarters.

When it was all said and done, Sgt. 1st Class Scott Stimpson, with the Recruiting and Retention Battalion, took the title of best non-commissioned officer, and Spc. Anthony Olsen, with the 1249th Engineer Battalion, took the title of best soldier of the year.

After months of training, dieting and studying for the state competition, they will now continue to train and prepare to represent Oregon at the Region VI competition, which will be hosted by the South Dakota National Guard in May.

Left:  Oregon Army National Guard Sgt. Joshua Martin, with Joint Force Headquarters, leads a group of competitors during a stretch of the three-mile ruck march during the 2014 Oregon Best Warrior Competition, 15 March, at Camp Rilea, in Warrenton, Oregon.

“These fine warriors represent the best of the best from the great state of Oregon. They are the warrior ethos defined and what it means to put your mind, body and soul to the test,” said Oregon State Command Sgt. Major Shane Lake.

“I want to thank the soldiers, along with their individual sponsors, for the many days spent in preparation for this event, as well as all the support staff and civilian sponsors. It is been an honor and privilege to be a part of an organization where such leaders are born!”

Friday, February 13, 2015

Army National Guard Soldier embraces martial arts as part of his career

Above: Oregon Army National Guard Lt. Col. Ed Winkler submits (taps out) to classmate Chase Warren as the two practice a choke maneuver while instructor Jared George watches their technique in Tigard, Oregon, during his Brazilian Jui Jitsu training, February 5.  Martial Arts training has become a passion of Winkler’s as part of his military career and personal discipline.  (Photo by Christopher L. Ingersoll, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs)

By Christopher L. Ingersoll, Public Affairs Specialist, Oregon Military Department.

TIGARD, Oregon. -- Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, a well-known fighting style to many martial arts fans, has become one of the more popular disciplines according to mixed martial artists.  Recently, an Oregon Army National Guard infantry officer earned a bronze medal in his division at the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation’s World Masters Tournament in Long Beach, California on Nov. 2.

Lt. Col. Ed Winkler, executive officer for Joint Force Headquarters, became interested in hand-to-hand combatives after his first deployment to Iraq in 2003.

“I realized very quickly that our fight was not at 300 meters, but more like three meters or less,” Winkler said.  “For example, when an unarmed Iraqi approaches a checkpoint operation, shouting in anger and frustration, we need to have the skills to take him down using the right amount of force.”

Over the next few years, Winkler enrolled in the levels one and two Army Combatives courses at Fort Benning, Georgia, for a total of 120 hours of instruction.  After the course, he began to pursue martial arts privately.  In 2007, he found a local Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy to where he now trains.

Winkler said he chose Brazilian Jiu Jistu as the combat art he wished to study and pursue because the art form enhances not only his specific mission as an infantryman, but also his overall military career and lifestyle.
“Jiu Jitsu is a non-striking form of martial arts,” Winkler said.  “The goal is to submit your opponent with attacks that threaten the joints in the body such as fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, toes, ankles, knees, neck or to render your opponent unconscious through the application of a choke that cuts the blood supply off to the brain.  Because it is non-striking it is called the ‘Gentle Art’.  

He said one advantage of Jiu Jitsu is that a smaller, weaker person who is well-trained can use leverage and balance against a stronger, heavier opponent.  Once they gain a dominant body position, they can use a variety of techniques to incapacitate their opponent. 

“As an infantryman, our overarching mission is to destroy the enemy in close combat,” Winkler said. “Competitions provide a relatively safe platform to test ones mental and physical mettle against a fully resistant opponent while engaging in a combat sport.”

While the Army Combatives program is Jiu Jitsu-based, Winkler said the sport of Jiu Jitsu leaves a number of large gaps in the need for hand-to-hand combat skills on the battlefield. 

“For starters, there is no striking or weapons, but I can't imagine a combat situation that would not include strikes and/or weapons:  Handgun, knife, stick, rock ... pretty much anything one could get into their hands to increase the odds of survival,” said Winkler. “That being said, the Army's philosophy explained at the Combatives School at Fort Benning when I attended is the person who wins the hand-to-hand combat fight on the battlefield is the person who's buddy shows up first with a gun.”

He said the Warrior Tasks regarding Combatives underscore the philosophy in which Soldiers are required to be proficient in gaining dominant positions over an opponent, allowing time for their buddy to show up with a weapon.

Winkler said Brazilian Jiu Jitsu also enhances his ability to command as well.

Right: Oregon Army National Guard Lt. Col. Ed Winkler is taught a choking technique from Brazilian Jui Jitsu instructor Jared George in Tigard, Oregon, during his Brazilian Jui Jitsu training, February 5. Martial Arts training has become a passion of Winkler’s as part of his military career and personal discipline.  (Photo by Christopher L. Ingersoll, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs) 

“Every Soldier I have met in my more than 30-year military career, including myself, has a natural respect for those who exhibit the Warrior Spirit and who take training and their combat role seriously,” Winkler said.  “Jiu-Jitsu is one way that I demonstrate both leadership and the Warrior Spirit.  It is also one of many ways a leader can earn respect both up and down the chain of command.”

Outside of his military career, Winkler says that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has been a boost to his health and his family interactions as well. 

“Training in Jiu-Jitsu not only provides a tremendous workout, but it also provides a mechanism for mental sharpness through continual learning,” he said.  “After eight years of training, I still see things I have never seen before in terms of new techniques.  It also adds a level of confidence to my day-to-day interactions, whether it is work related or family related.”

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Oregon Airman honored with Bronze Star Medal

Maj. Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, Adjutant General, Oregon, awards Staff Sgt. Owen Unbehaun (right), of the 125th Special Tactics Squadron (STS), Oregon Air National Guard, with the Bronze Star Medal during a ceremony held at the Portland Air National Guard Base, in Portland, Oregon, Feb. 7. 

PORTLAND, Oregon - The Oregon Air National Guard recognized one of their Citizen-Airmen with a Bronze Star medal during a ceremony on Saturday, February 7, at the Portland Air National Guard Base.

Staff Sgt. Owen Unbehaun, of the 125th Special Tactics Squadron (STS), received the Bronze Star medal during a packed morning ceremony held at the unit's auditorium. In attendance were Unbehaun's parents, brother, and girlfriend. The 234th Army Band provided music for the ceremony.

Maj. Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, Adjutant General, Oregon, presided over the ceremony, and presented Unbehaun with the medal. In attendance were Unbehaun's parents, brother, and girlfriend. The 234th Army Band provided music for the ceremony.

Oregon Air National Guard Brig. Gen. Michael E. Stencel, Air Component Commander for Oregon, along with other Oregon National Guard leadership were also in attendance.

Unbehaun, a Combat Control Craftsman with the 125th STS, served in Afghanistan with the 21st Expeditionary Special Tactics Squadron, Combined Joint Operations Air Component, Special Operations Command Central.

As the sole Airman serving as a Joint Terminal Attack Controller assigned to an Army Special Forces Team and later a Navy SEAL Team that was partnered with an Afghan Commando Special Operations Unit, Unbehaun was instrumental in providing combat airpower during 43 complex operations, according to the citation.

During one major clearing operation consisting of 300 personnel and supported by 80 aircraft sorties, Unbehaun's ability to battle track the widely dispersed ground forces was critical for the team's force protection. As he and his team moved through the objective area, hostile insurgents positioned on the high ground and ambushed their elements, the citation says.

Unbehaun neutralized the enemy insurgents with the AC-130W gunship, multiple unmanned predator drones, and four F-18s, which killed eight insurgents and destroyed four defensive fighting positions. Throughout the deployment, Unbehaun managed 160 air sorties and controlled 21 aerial resupply missions enabling the delivery of one ton of equipment, fuel, and perishable goods for his teams.

The 125th STS is responsible for training, equipping, and employing combat control (CCT), Special Operations Weather Team (SOWT), and support personnel to successfully execute special tactics operations domestically and worldwide in support of both state and federal missions.

Since establishment of the unit on May 27, 2005, the 125th STS has deployed forces in support of numerous combat operations during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn in Iraq.

The unit has also responded to numerous domestic response operations to include: Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita, Hurricane Ike, and severe flooding in Vernonia, Ore. Currently, the unit is undergoing its first mobilization in which operators are filling a critical need as Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs) in Village Security Operations in the remote areas of Afghanistan. 

Photo by 1st Lt. Heather Bashor, Oregon Air National Guard Public Affairs.