|Oregon National Guard Brigadier General retires after 37 years of Citizen-Soldiering
About 200 Soldiers, Airmen, coworkers, family and friends, gathered in Salem, Ore., to bid farewell to an individual many referred to as a "consummate individual" and a "Soldier's Soldier.
Brig. Gen. Raymond C. Byrne, Jr., Assistant Adjutant General, Oregon National Guard, was hosted in an official retirement ceremony held at the Anderson Readiness Center on Mar. 2, 2008.
The ceremony was attended by current and retired senior leaders of both Oregon's Air and Army National Guard, several civic leaders and business owners, and Oregon's Governor, Ted Kulongoski, who said Byrne's approach to leadership reflected his approach to life.
"He has a humility and a heartfelt concern for the troops and their families under his command," Kulongoski said.
Kulongoski highlighted the general's military career, which began in 1971 as an enlisted Soldier. The Governor paid special attention to the period beginning in Oct. 2003, when Byrne was appointed as Acting Adjutant Generalwhere he supervised, managed, and oversaw the entire Oregon National Guard until Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees assumed the post in mid-2005.
While at the helm of the Oregon National Guard, Byrne oversaw several high-profile overseas deployments of Oregon Soldiers, and the start of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission's investigation into the possible shutdown of the Portland Air Base.
Part of his responsibility also included being responsible to the President of the United States and stipulations given by Congress concerning use of federal funds and National Guard resources.
Kulongoski commended Byrne for his steadfast leadership and direction.
"I will always be grateful to his service to the nation and to Oregonians," he said of Byrne.
Like the 41 Separate Infantry Brigade, a unit Byrne had commanded previous to his tenure at Joint Forces Headquarters in Salem, Ore., Kulongoski said Byrne made a lasting impact on the people and the units he commanded.
"He left every unit better off than when he found them," the Governor said.
Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, Adjutant General, Oregon National Guard, praised Byrne's accomplishments in the military as well as in his civilian life. Byrne spent nearly 37 years as a traditional National Guard Soldier, and more than 21 years as a middle school teacher.
"(Byrne) reinforces my belief that traditional guardsmen are the treasure of the United States," Rees said. "Individuals who are successful in their civilian life carry that wealth of knowledge into the military."
Byrne, who holds a Bachelor of Science in anthropology and a master's degree in curriculum and instruction, both from the University of Oregon, said he holds education as a high priority in his life. He would often quote page and verse from the many books he read.
According to Jim Willis, Director of the Oregon Department of Veteran's Affairs, Byrne brought a wealth of knowledgeboth intellectual and military to the organization.
"And you didn't want to get into a contest about history with (Byrne)," Willis said jokingly during his speech.
All those who spoke about Byrne highlighted his devotion to taking care of people, whether they were in uniform or not. Both Kulongoski and Rees commended Byrne for his work with families of deployed Soldiers through the Family Readiness Groups and his work with veterans through the Oregon National Guard Reintegration Team.
Byrne thanked several coworkers by name, and quoted several passages from favorite books during his speech. He thanked all the Soldiers, Airmen and their families for their service to the state and the nation, taking a reflective look back at his career and the people who touched his life.
"Retirement ceremonies for the military are a good time to reflect on all the people you've' met and all the places you've been," Byrne said. "It (gives you a chance) to kind of wrap up your life in the military."
He said he looked forward to enjoying the company of family and friends during his retirement in the McKenzie River Valley, where he is a resident, but has offered his assistance to the Oregon National Guard, if needed.
"I've told General Rees that I'd be willing to help out on whatever he needs help on. I'm tied to this organization, both time-wise, but also emotionally. You just don't walk away from that," Byrne said.
Byrne offered some advice for the future leaders of the Oregon National Guard, which in many ways is fitting of his philosophy of life.
"Anybody who is in a leadership position needs to take care of (their) people," he said. "Every time I've seen leaders fail, it's not because they didn't have the skills or competencies, but it's because they didn't take care of the people they worked with. If you have respect for the people you work with, they'll respect you. In a lot of ways, it's how to live your life."
Pfc. Anita Vandermolen of the 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment contributed to this article.
080202-F-1639C-008.JPG: Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, Adjutant General, Oregon National Guard, and Brig. Gen. Raymond C. Byrne, Jr., (right center), stand before a gathering of about 200 well-wishers during Byrne's retirement ceremony at the Anderson Readiness Center in Salem, Ore., Mar. 2, 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs)
080202-F-1639C-023.JPG: Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski (right), and Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, Adjutant General, Oregon National Guard, (back), award Brig. Gen. Raymond C. Byrne, Jr. with the Oregon Distinguished Service Medal, an honor bestowed on individuals in the Oregon National Guard who display exceptionally meritorious service during their career. Byrne was hosted by about 200 well-wishers during his retirement ceremony at the Anderson Readiness Center in Salem, Ore., Mar. 2, 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs)
Oregon Military Department Public Affairs Office