SALEM, Ore. --
Oregon Army and Air National Guardsmen, from Ashland to Astoria, and all points in-between, have been mobilized for deployment while being recognized by their communities in multiple ceremonies around the state in recent weeks.
The mobilization of troops marks one of the largest activations in Oregon history as families, neighbors and employers gathered at Armories, College stadiums and High School gyms to wish good luck, and say their heartfelt good-byes.
The first group was mobilized on Sept. 28 in Portland as Soldiers from both 2nd Battalion, 218th Field Artillery (Forest Grove), and Company A, 141st Brigade Support Battalion (Clackamas) prepared to depart to Qatar. On Oct. 13, two ceremonies took place at two locations; the first in Ashland as the 1-168 Infantry Battalion prepared to deploy to Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, and the second in St. Helens as the 741st Brigade Engineer Battalion prepare to deploy to the Middle East.
The final ceremony was held in Astoria on Nov. 3, as Airmen from the 116th Air Control Squadron were mobilized to support Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Resolute Support.
Speaking at the first of the four mobilization ceremonies on Sept. 28, Maj. Gen. Michael E. Stencel, the Adjutant General, Oregon, addressed the Soldiers, along with their family and co-workers as the start of more than 1,600 members of the Oregon National Guard prepared to deploy for overseas contingency operations.
“One of my greatest points of pride as the Adjutant General is seeing our Oregon National Guard units train as hard as they do and then apply those skills and professionalism in areas around the world to help our neighbors and allies.”
The arrays of assignments are as varied as the units heading out the door and downrange.
Stencel detailed some of the unique characteristics and distinctions with these units as he reminded members of the 2-218th that their history dates as far back as 1866.
“In fact is, the 2-218th is the oldest National Guard artillery unit west of the Mississippi River continually serving,” he said, as he introduced some of the members deploying.
“An example of what I am talking about is Staff Sergeant Brett Naylor and his Wife Staff Sergeant Erin Naylor. They were married in March of 2017, but had to put their new life together on hold when just a month later Erin deployed with the 1186th Military Police for a year in Kabul, Afghanistan.”
The couple are now parents to a daughter born in July of 2019, but for this deployment, it will be Brent deploying to Qatar for the next year. As they are both members of the Oregon Army National Guard, the also have the same civilian employer.
“In addition to their grueling deployment schedule and all the responsibilities of being new parents, they also work for the Clackamas County Sheriff’s department, helping keep their community safe.”
The second ceremony two weeks later at St. Helens High School, on Oct. 13, Stencel again highlighted members of the unit to illustrate some of the distinct stories of Oregon’s Citizen-Soldiers.
“The members of the Oregon National Guard are remarkable people and the 741st is no exception, said Stencel, as he highlighted the multiple deployments of some members.
One of those, Sgt. 1st Class Andrew McGillivray has now deployed four times while keeping a small construction business thriving, while his family continues to grow between the deployments. The McGillivary’s are also a two-member Guard family as his wife, Staff Sgt. Lauren serves and together they have a combined 29 years of service.
“While he is away, he and his wife of four years will welcome a second daughter, a little sister to their first daughter.”
When Sgt. Andrew McGillivray was asked about this deployment, he humbly replied that "I'm excited to get to deploy with such a great group of individuals, and I can't wait to get back home to meet my newest daughter after the deployment."
With so many Oregon Guardsmen deploying in a narrow window of time, the ceremonies around the state emphasize the impact and importance the National Guard plays in each community, large and small.
"These ceremonies offer an opportunity for our communities to show support for not only our service members, but also for our families and employers," said Col. Eric J. Riley, Commander of the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team. "We are proud to represent Oregon and the Oregon Army National Guard as we mobilize for overseas missions."
The fourth mobilization ceremony in Astoria on Nov. 3, 2019, saw Airmen from the 116th Air Control Squadron (ACS) join their Army comrades heading out the door during this large activation period.
Representing Gov. Kate Brown for the ceremony, Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read acknowledge to those filling the Astoria High School gymnasium the continued sacrifices that local Guardsmen play in supporting overseas assignments.
“I recognize that to keep a balance between being a citizen and guard member can be difficult,” he said. “To all of you deploying, your willingness to take on these additional duties and responsibilities is commendable and admirable.”
The 116th ACS is one of the most deployed units in the Oregon National Guard, deploying frequently, with assignments in 2006 in Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Iraq in 2008, Qatar in 2011, to provide Air Defense of the Arabian Gulf and in 2015 like now, to Southwest Asia.
Stencel described many of the Airmen who have made repeat deployments over this time period, and how many members of the unit have grown with the frequent operations over the many years.
“The unit is filled with extraordinary people, and countless stories,” he said highlighting many members who have seen multiple deployments. “This will be Captain Tyler Birman’s third deployment, he grew up as an Air Force brat, and eventually had the opportunity in 2011 to deploy with his father Chief Master Sgt. Bob Birman, when he was working as a computer maintenance technician. Tyler later applied for a commission as an Air Battle Manager, a position he has held now for over eight years.”
In concluding the ceremony, Stencel touched on many of the same themes he emphasized in all the mobilization ceremonies around the State of Oregon.
“I think we have all heard the phrase, “takes a village,” he said. “Just know that you’re family, friends, employers and so many others are supporting you as well.”
“When I look around and see the entire community, I know that we’re all in this together.”