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    2021: Another exceptional year for the Oregon National Guard

    Oregon National Guard supports Lane County Health and Human Services with COVID-19 Vaccinations

    Photo By John Hughel | A kindly new friend, Bee Bee, greets Oregon Army National Guard Spc. Megan...... read more read more



    Story by Master Sgt. John Hughel 

    Oregon National Guard Public Affairs Office

    SALEM, Ore. - As the year began, Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced the activation of the Oregon National Guard to assist with the distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations. Guard members worked alongside their civilian counterparts to support mass vaccination sites around the state. By June, Oregon Citizen-Soldier and Airmen had administered approximately 400,000 vaccines.

    To further expand the impact of vaccine rollout, Oregon Guardsmen also were activated to assist 211info, a local nonprofit organization helping area resident’s methods to identify, navigate and connect with the local resources and questions concerning the COVID-19 vaccine.

    Oregon National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, throughout the past year have been called to respond time and again for overseas deployments and homeland response missions. In doing so they have exemplified the assurance to the citizens in the state, region and nation they are, ‘Always Ready, Always There!’

    “As the combat reserve of the Army and Air Force, we are trained and equipped to fight our nation’s wars, but in times of emergency, those same people, training and equipment provide us the ability to respond to our communities when they need us most,” said Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau.

    In the wake of the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capital, Oregon Soldiers assigned to the 1186th Military Police Company along with members from the 1-186th Infantry Battalion were mobilized to support the 59th Presidential Inauguration Jan. 20, 2021. They were part of 26,000 National Guardsmen making up Joint Task Force District of Columbia, supporting local and federal officials through May 23, 2021.

    During the evening of Jan. 18, Gen. Hokanson caught up with many members of the 1186th Military Police Company while they were on their security mission for the U.S. Capital near the White House.

    “First of all…it’s great to see you guys, when did you get here?” he said, eager to see fellow Oregonians in uniform -- and on mission. “I’ve been in the Oregon Guard for 25 years and worked with some amazing people, can’t thank you enough for your service.”

    As spring approached domestic operations turned toward overseas deployments when 130 Soldiers assigned to Alpha Troop, 1st Squadron, 82nd Cavalry Regiment were mobilized to support the European Deterrence Initiative as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve. They were formally mobilized on April 25, during a ceremony at West Albany High School.

    The Oregon service members are training alongside Poland army troops, as well as troops from the United Kingdom, Romania and Croatia. The plan is to deter aggression in Eastern Europe.

    "We're going to be doing some training exercises, some live fire training exercises and mounted maneuvering exercises, as well as practicing individual soldier skills," said Capt. Cody Comerford, a member of Alpha troop, whose mission is to deter aggression in Eastern Europe.

    In the late summer and early fall, additional Oregon Army Soldiers were also heading out the door for deployments abroad. The 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment mobilized 10 members in September to help support the United States European Command that will be working with active duty counterparts and other NATO partners.

    In November approximately 75 Oregon Army National Guardsmen from Bravo Company’s 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment, and maintenance support members from the 145th Brigade Support Battalion reported to Fort Bliss, Texas.

    The Oregon Soldiers combined with two companies from Montana National Guard’s 163rd Infantry Regiment to Task Force GRIZ. The three combined companies will train together in Texas before departing for Qatar in early January of 2022 for a 9-month deployment to support the United States Central Command.

    While these Guard members were being deployed overseas, others were being called up to support domestic operations in Oregon and elsewhere around the United States.

    National Guard Soldiers and Airmen had been a major part of Operation Allies Refuge, routing American citizens through Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan by August 31. The Department of State-led effort transitioned into Operation Allies Welcome as Guardsmen assisted Afghans relocating to the United States.

    On November 15, roughly 250 Oregon National Guard Soldiers were mobilized for Operation Allies Welcome to support operations at Camp Atterbury in Indiana, one of eight military installations set up to receive nearly 65,000 Afghan evacuees. The Soldiers assigned to the 1186th military police company and 224th Engineering Company will be deployed for the next year, and are assisting with transportation and logistical support, as well as medical care, safety, security, and other day-to-day needs.

    Closure to home, massive wildfires scorched large areas of the west coast from California to Washington, to states further east in Montana and Wyoming. Here in Oregon, fires burned nearly 600,000 acres during the 2021 wildfires season. Oregon Guardsmen were activated to fight several fires around the state, including the Rough Patch Complex that had three wildland firefighting crews and Bootleg Fire in Southern Oregon.

    Touring the response efforts on July 28, 2021, in Klamath County, Oregon Governor Kate Brown met with the incident command staff, local officials, firefighters and National Guard members involved in supporting firefighting operations.

    “The Bootleg Fire underscores the need for our state to have more boots on the ground,” said Brown. “I am grateful for the hardworking fire crews on the ground, our Oregon National Guard members providing support, and all those contributing to the response efforts.”

    With service members coming off the fire lines, others were being mobilized by Aug. 20, to help with nonclinical work and COVID-19 testing in 20 hospitals. Initially, 500 members were mobilized, as Governor Brown authorized more than 1,600 Oregon National Guard members to support these operations and the Oregon State Hospital through the end of 2021.

    Troops working at area hospitals have helped elevate depleted staff members, especially during the spike in COVID-19 infections due to the Delta variant.
    “We get a lot of thanks from both the employees, visitors and patients," said Master. Sgt. Sara Wassam, a member of the 142nd Wing, and was assigned to Providence St. Vincent Hospital in Portland. "I probably haven’t been thanked so much in my career."

    On Dec. 13, 2021, Oregon National Guard leadership took time to thank Service Members around the U.S. and those deployed overseas as part of the National Guard’s 385th Birthday during a video chat from Camp Withycombe, Oregon. Governor Brown and Maj. Gen. Michael Stencel, Adjutant General, Oregon, recognized service members for their dedication to another year of conscientious work.

    “You and your families have made incredible sacrifices this past year, hopefully now that the holidays are here, you can enjoy some down time together and a well-deserved break,” said Stencel. “Thank you again for continually stepping up to serve your nation and communities.”



    Date Taken: 12.22.2021
    Date Posted: 12.23.2021 20:00
    Story ID: 411883
    Location: SALEM, OR, US 

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