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    Cal Guard remembers Maj. Gen. Robert Brandt

    Cal Guard remembers Maj. Gen. Robert Brandt

    Courtesy Photo | U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Robert Brandt seen as a Col. in an undated courtesy photo.... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    California National Guard Primary   

    by Staff Sgt. Crystal Housman
    California National Guard Public Affairs

    Oct. 30, 2020

    MATHER, Calif. – Current and former service members and leaders of the California National Guard gathered Friday to remember retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Robert Brandt during a memorial service at Mather Field.

    Brandt, who died April 3 due to complications from Parkinson’s disease, was heralded as a cerebral leader who cared for his troops, an exceptional pilot and a devoted father.

    “Anyone who knew him knew he was one of those warrior-scholar types,” said California State Guard Col. Jon Siepmann, the event’s master of ceremonies, who served as Brandt’s aide-de-camp during his time in the California Army National Guard. “He knew as much about military formations in World War II and Korea as he did about modern strategy.”

    Brandt enlisted in the California Army National Guard in 1954, commissioned as an officer four years later, and logged 45 years of military service before retiring in 1999.

    At a time when many were actively avoiding military service, Brandt volunteered for active duty in 1961. He deployed with the 33rd Transportation Company (Light Helicopter) to fly H-21 Shawnee helicopters in Vietnam from January 1962 through August 1963.

    He was the first National Guard officer to serve in Vietnam and the first National Guard Soldier awarded a Purple Heart during the war after being shot sitting in a helicopter by a young Viet Cong Soldier who himself was killed minutes later.

    “He respected the courage of the soldier and it bothered him that he didn’t have the kind of life he had,” said Brandt’s daughter, Kellie Buttram.

    An accomplished pilot and recipient of the Army’s master aviation badge and four Air Medals, Brandt flew over 7,900 flight hours in both rotary and fixed wing aircraft and logged missions during peacetime and combat.

    In late April 1992, Brandt was one of thousands of Cal Guard service members activated by then-Governor Pete Wilson to respond to riots in Los Angeles after four police officers were acquitted of beating Rodney King.

    Maj. Gen. Matthew Beevers, Cal Guard’s deputy adjutant general, relayed an anecdote from the activation told to him by the adjutant general, Maj. Gen. David Baldwin, who was not in attendance.

    Then-Capt. Baldwin, he said, was on post in South Central Los Angeles as a company commander when in the early morning hours, he noticed a man in the distance.

    “Out of the darkness comes this lone figure that happened to be then-Col. promotable Brandt who was simply out by himself checking on Soldiers,” Beevers said. “It is a testament to Gen. Brandt’s leadership and an example of what leaders should be doing every day.”

    Brandt commanded at every level of his service, first as a platoon commander before working his way into positions of greater responsibility. He commanded the Cal Guard’s 40th Combat Aviation Brigade, which honored him during the service with a three-helicopter flyover of a CH-47 Chinook, UH-60 Black Hawk and UH-72 Lakota.

    He went on to serve as deputy commander of the 40th Infantry Division, which is now commanded by his daughter, Maj. Gen. Laura Yeager.

    Yeager, who eulogized her father along with Buttram, her sister, spoke about her father’s work to restore funding to the division, implementation of the Army’s Total Force concept to bolster the Guard’s footing among other components, and his work to assign Black Hawk helicopters to the National Guard.

    She and her sister shared personal anecdotes of life in the Brandt household and remembered their dad as a patient and caring father who shared with them stories from the past and his love of learning.

    “My dad had the most remarkable memory, and he could vividly recall things all the way back to childhood,” Yeager said. “He was an exceptional storyteller.”

    Buttram spoke of how, as a child, Brandt taught himself to read. As an adult, his love of reading turned into regular family trips to the library, she said.

    Yeager, recalling spirited discussions around the family dinner table, said Brandt was committed to being both a good Soldier and a good father.

    “When he was home, he was so present,” she said. “We felt like the most important people in the world.”

    In January 1993, Gov. Pete Wilson appointed Brandt as Assistant Adjutant General of the California National Guard. He served in the role until his retirement in 1999.

    “Gen. Brandt continued his love for the military even after he retired, writing books, and staying engaged with the museum foundation and many other efforts,” Siepmann said.
    In 2001, Brandt wrote about his Vietnam experience and authored the book “Thunderbird Lounge: An Aviator's Story about One Early Transportation Helicopter Company, Along with Its Sister Companies as They Paved the Way in what was to Become ‘a Helicopter War.’”
    In his spare time, Brandt built military models with detail and accuracy, Yeager said, touting her father’s artistic abilities. A lifelong lover of military history, Brandt used actual tail numbers and took care to apply dirt and battle damage to the models for an added degree of realism.
    During the ceremony, Brandt was posthumously presented with the Order of California. Brandt received the state’s highest non-valor award “for exceptionally meritorious service in positions of increasing responsibility,” the citation read.

    He was also recognized with a joint member resolution signed by members of the California state senate and state assembly.

    Brandt’s other major awards and decorations include three Meritorious Service Medals, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, and the California Medal of Merit.

    The ceremony, which was pushed to fall as a safety measure due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, concluded with a formation flyover by four F-15C Eagle fighter aircraft from the California Air National Guard’s 144th Fighter Wing and the rendering of final honors.

    Honors included a cannon salute, which is only afforded to general officers, followed by three rifle volleys, the playing of Taps and Amazing Grace by musicians from the 40th Infantry Division Band and folding of the national flag by Soldiers from the Cal Guard’s Veterans Honors Program.

    Beevers and California State Brig. Gen. Robert Spano presented folded U.S. and state flags to each of Brandt’s immediate family members.



    Date Taken: 10.30.2020
    Date Posted: 11.02.2020 17:26
    Story ID: 382240
    Location: MATHER, CA, US 

    Web Views: 108
    Downloads: 1