|Oregon National Guard kicks off deployment of 41st Brigade with ceremony in Portland
The Oregon National Guard's 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team hosted the first of four mobilization ceremonies at the Portland Coliseum in Portland, Ore., on May 2.
Nearly 2,700 soldiers will depart during the first week in May in preparation for training at Camp Stewart, Ga., prior to leaving for Iraq.
Approximately 1,000 well-wishers, and soldiers' family and friends joined representatives from federal, state, and local government at the 9:00 a.m. ceremony.
Governor Ted Kulongoski said soldiers could focus on their mission because Oregonians would look after their loved ones in their absence.
Oregon Senator, Ron Wyden (D-OR), echoed the governor's support, but added that soldiers returning from the deployment would be well cared for.
"We will not have you go from the front line to the unemployment line," Wyden said to the crowd, which responded to the senator's comments with applause and cheering.
For many National Guard soldiers, this deployment marks a second, or even third trip to the Middle East. But for some soldiers like Spec. Susan Maxwell of Seaside, Ore., her first deployment is full of mixed emotions.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't scared," said Maxwell, who is with the 141 Brigade Support Battalion. "But at the same time, I'm really looking forward to going."
Other soldiers like Staff Sgt. Brandy Mortenson, of Portland, Ore., have deployed multiple times. This trip marks her third time in the Middle East—two other deployments were with the active duty Army.
"I'm looking forward to the adventure," Mortenson said. "My family is a little sad, but they understand I serve my country."
For Staff Sgt. David Gowan, who is with the 2-218 Field Artillery, while this deployment is his first, he said he hopes to employ his many years as an artillery fire direction section chief to help mentor his teammates.
"For me (my goal) is going to be taking care of the guys," Gowan said. "Watching them grow and mentoring and teaching them, is what I'm going to concentrate on."
Gowan, who now resides in Portland with is wife and young daughter, is originally from Ukiah, Calif. He said his other goal is to make sure everyone makes it home safe—a sentiment echoed by many of the soldiers.
"We need to make sure we look out for everyone's mental well-being too," Gowan said.
The Oregon National Guard has mobilization ceremonies planned throughout the state. According to Oregon Guard officials, the ceremonies in Portland, Bend, Eugene, and Medford give local communities an opportunity to personally send off the soldiers as they depart on what is the largest deployment of the Oregon National Guard since World War II.
Nearly 2,700 soldiers from Oregon and five companies of soldiers totaling 700 personnel from Delaware, Massachusetts, Nebraska and New Mexico will spend about two months training at Camp Stewart, followed by ten months in Iraq.
090502-F-1639C-015.JPG: Col. Dan Hokanson, commander of the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Oregon Army National Guard, prepares for his unit's mobilization ceremony at the Portland Coliseum in Portland, Ore., May 2. Nearly 2,700 soldiers will mobilize in communities throughout Oregon, giving residents of Bend, Medford, Eugene and Portland, a chance to send off Oregon's soldiers in what is the largest deployment of Oregonians since WWII. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs).
090502-F-1639C-129.JPG: Members of the Oregon Army National Guard's 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team stand in formation during the unit's mobilization ceremony at the Portland Coliseum in Portland, Ore., May 2. Nearly 2,700 soldiers will mobilize in communities throughout Oregon, giving residents of Bend, Medford, Eugene and Portland, a chance to send off Oregon's soldiers in what is the largest deployment of Oregonians since WWII. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs).
Maj. Michael Braibish
Oregon National Guard Public Affairs Officer