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Pendleton National Guard regiment comes home to praise

Antonio Sierra

East Oregonian

Published on October 22, 2016 8:23PM

Last changed on October 24, 2016 2:30PM

Oregon National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jeremiah Williams of Baker City shakes hands with Rep. Greg Walden while his son Wyatt watches at a decomissioning ceremony for the First Battalion, 168th Aviation Regiment at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Pendleton Saturday.

Staff photo by Antonio Sierra

Oregon National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jeremiah Williams of Baker City shakes hands with Rep. Greg Walden while his son Wyatt watches at a decomissioning ceremony for the First Battalion, 168th Aviation Regiment at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Pendleton Saturday.

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While some of Oregon’s top dignitaries were impressed with the freshly decommissioned Oregon Army National Guard 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation Regiment’s accomplishments in Kuwait and Iraq, it was all in a day’s work for the soldiers’ commander.

Eastern Oregon welcomed back the detachment from the year-long tour at a ceremony at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Pendleton Saturday, as hundreds of people gathered to pay tribute to the 60 men and women who acted as support staff to all three branches of the armed forces.

The ceremony was presided over by Maj. Gen. Michael Stencel, Oregon Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden and Pendleton Mayor Phillip Houk, many of whom cited the 1.1 million pounds of supplies and more than 10,000 personnel they transported throughout the Arabian Gulf region.

Those who spoke at the ceremony weren’t shy about sharing the regiment’s exploits, like an instance where they transported a Black Hawk helicopter that ran out of a fuel on a sling load.

“Hopefully you got some good photos of that so you can show you buddies in the (Willamette) Valley so they know where they are in the food chain,” Walden said.

Although the regiment may have helped the armed forces in their quest to defeat Islamic State, “a true enemy of mankind” as Atkins described the terrorist organization, Capt. Will Liebhaber said tasks like the Black Hawk transport were fairly routine.

“It’s not that big of deal,” he said.

Whether Liebhaber was simply being modest or not, his regiment has been busy for the past year.

The 168th flew Chinook helicopters during their missions, traditionally the most requested transports.

Liebhaber said they flew at least one mission per day, which isn’t the case with every regiment.

The 168th also had another unique statistic to it — two pairs of brothers serving together in the regiment.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jacob Radke and Sgt. August Radke of Walla Walla were one of those pairs.

Jacob Radke was previously deployed to Iraq in 2004 without his brother, but found some solace in a familiar face this time around.

“It makes it more bearable,” he said.

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Contact Antonio Sierra at asierra@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0836.



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