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Guard: A tradition of service to community and their country

The tradition of citizen-soldiers in Oregon and in Wasco County dates back to before Oregon was even a territory.

While Lewis and Clark were the first non-native military presence in the Columbia Gorge, in 1805-1806, the first company of volunteer “Oregon Rifles” organized in Oregon City in response to the 1847-48 Cayuse War, reached The Dalles Dec. 21, 1847 to establish Fort Lee to guard the Wascopam Mission and emigrant property.

Through the 1850s, volunteer militia aided federal soldiers at Camp Drum (later Fort Dalles) responding to attacks on settlers running the fort during the Civil War. The fort was abandoned in 1867 and later turned over to the city.

In summer of 1878, Bannock and Paiute raiders invaded Eastern Oregon and citizens of Wasco County organized Company A, Wasco Volunteers, which served in the field at Weston for eight days in July.

Oregon’s National Guard carried on the citizen-soldier tradition after it was established in 1887, in response to a new militia law.

The Guard based at The Dalles provided soldiers in a variety of conflicts, including the Spanish American War and Philippine Insurrection of 1898-99, where the men participated in the capture of Manila.

In September 1940, in anticipation of entry into World War II, President Roosevelt called the 41st division into federal service for a year, including Company H, based in The Dalles. Their term of service was extended with entry into the war and the 41st Infantry shipped out to Australia in 1942. Company H fought in campaigns in Papua, New Guinea, and the southern Philippines and served four months of occupation duty in the Kure-Hiroshima area of Japan.

In 1948, during the Cold War, the local unit became Company B, 162nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 41st Infantry Division. Soon after it was organized and equipped, it was called on to support civil authorities during the severe January 1950 snowstorm.

In 1970, during the Vietnam War, reorganized as Troop K, 3rd Squadron, 163rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, troops went on active duty under Operation Tranquility, to prevent disruptions at a National American Legion Convention in Portland. With 124 Troops on state active duty, Troop K spent six days protecting private property where Gov. Tom McCall had organized a state-sponsored rock festival to occupy protesters.

In 2004 and 2010, the now Alpha Company of the 3rd Battalion 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team served in Iraq.

Source: “History of The Dalles National Guard Unit and Armory,” by Warren W. Aney.

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