New head of Oregon National Guard named

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – Maj. Gen. Fred Rees, a Helix native and West Point graduate, has been named the new adjutant general of the Oregon National Guard by Gov. Ted Kulongoski.

Rees, who served as a cavalry troop commander in Vietnam, held the Oregon job twice previously in the 1980s and ’90s.

Oregon National Guard deployments have reached the highest level since World War II, and there are growing concerns of an exodus of experienced soldiers following long deployments to Iraq.

Preliminary figures show that fewer than half of the Iraq veterans in the Oregon Guard’s 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry, decided to re-enlist after the unit returned home in April.

Retention rates typically are near 80 percent.

The Legislature is considering several bills that would make joining or staying in the National Guard more attractive.

Acting Adjutant Gen. Raymond Byrne will remain in the Oregon post until Rees finishes his assignment as chief of staff at the U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs, Colo., this spring.

Byrne has held the post for the past 15 months, a time that saw hundreds of Oregon National Guard troops mobilized for Iraq.

Kulongoski said he has asked Rees to review how conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have affected the Oregon National Guard and to evaluate the role of the Guard in homeland security.

He called the Oregon National Guard "one of the most highly qualified and skilled corps of citizen-soldiers in our country."

"Maj. Gen. Rees brings the depth of experience and leadership … that we need during this time of increased dependence on Oregon’s soldiers," the governor said in a statement.

Rees, 60, was named in January as a frontrunner in Kulongoski’s quest to appoint a full-time adjutant general.

Byrne took the temporary post in 2003 when Maj. Gen. Alexander Burgin stepped down after allegedly interfering with an inquiry into a subordinate’s promotion.

Oregon has about 9,300 National Guard soldiers and airmen including 6,100 in the Army National Guard.

Rees also has served as director of the Army National Guard and acting chief of the National Guard bureau in Washington, D.C.

A graduate of Helix schools, near Pendleton, Rees graduated from West Point in 1966. He attended law school at the University of Oregon and did postgraduate studies at Harvard University.