Home COMMUNITY Real People REAL PEOPLE: Gorham experienced transformation of Guard
REAL PEOPLE: Gorham experienced transformation of Guard
Duty spanned 27 years and two Iraq deployments
The easiest method to measure the breadth of Todd Gorham’s career in the Oregon Army National Guard is to focus on the world as it stood when he joined and what it looked like when he turned in his gear for the last time.
When Gorham joined the Oregon Guard in 1985 there was no Internet. Ronald Reagan sat in the Oval Office. Mikhail Gorbachev was the General Secretary of a country known as the Soviet Union and Coca-Cola was touting a new formula for its renowned soft drink called “New Coke.”
When Gorham separated honorably from the Oregon Guard in 2012, Reagan was long dead, the Soviet Union was a distant, dim memory and hardly anyone remembered “New Coke.”
The world was a different place for sure when Gorham walked away from the La Grande Armory for the last time. The United States was still engaged in the global war on terror, terrorism was no longer something that occurred across the oceans and in other nations and the National Guard was a totally different entity. Instead of a back-up force in case of a national emergency, the Guard was now a part of America’s front-line effort to combat terrorism in nations such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
Gorham logged 27 years and two overseas combat deployments between the day he joined the Guard and the day he left.
“It sounds like a really long time,” Gorham said, when he reflected on his Guard career. “But it went pretty fast.”
Between the time Gorham joined the La Grande citizen-soldier outfit and when he left, he climbed the ranks in a steady fashion. He started out as a private and retired as a first sergeant. In between, he watched the Guard and the nation transform. Gorham said he can easily point to the day when everything transformed for the Guard.
“After 9/11. That was when it changed. Before 9/11, the Guard was a weekend job. It was not as intense. When 9/11 happened, it (the Guard) became a part-time career,” he said.
Gorham experienced first-hand the transformation of the Guard. Before 9/11 his active-duty time was limited to two-week annual training sessions every year or the occasional Army school to advance his career. Then the war came.
“From 9/11 to 2002, I was on active duty almost four years,” he said.
The evolution of the Guard during the war on terror also furnished rewards for those who sought to move up the ladder of advancement, Gorham said.
“The opportunities for advancement opened up. The financial rewards got better,” he said. “And, I think, the weekend warrior mentality is now gone.”
Gorham deployed to Iraq twice, both times with Eastern Oregon’s 3rd battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment. The first overseas deployment stint occurred in 2004. Then he deployed a second time with the 3-116th in 2010. Each deployment was different, he said, and delivered positive and negative lessons.
“I’d say the second one (in 2010-2011) was easier than the first. But I know we moved a lot of equipment and supplies all over Iraq during the second deployment,” he said.
Both combat tours furnished Gorham with valuable skills, he said.
“It honed my leadership skills, made me a better worker and leader,” he said.
Gorham said that, after 27 years, he misses some things about the Guard. Other items connected to life in the National Guard he said he does not yearn for.
“I don’t miss the time away from family. But I met some great, lifelong friends. Overall my time in the Guard was rewarding,” he said.
Gorham said his success in the Guard was only possible because his full-time employer, Boise Cascade, remained supportive.
“They were very cooperative, very easy to work with by letting me have time off to further my Guard career. They were outstanding,” he said.
Gorham said, in the end, he is pleased with his time in the Guard.
“I’m really proud. It was the best thing I’ve ever done,” he said.