By Nathalie Hardy • Columnist • 

Local battery judged best in U.S.

Known as “The Governor’s Own,” the battery is attached to the Oregon Army National Guard’s 218 Field Artillery Battalion. Most of its 88 members are combat veterans, as the unit has been deployed overseas three times in recent years.

Unit commander Capt. Derek Hotchkiss said the battery has been chosen to fire symbolic howitzer salvos at high-profile events around the state. And that seems only fitting, because in addition to claiming the national direct fire title this year, it has won the state’s direct fire trophy three years running.

Hotchkiss said performing a canon salute is a deserving honor for his soldiers. He said their accomplishments in competition are all the more impressive when you consider training time they lost due to acceptance of a decontamination mission “completely outside of anything they’ve ever received any formal training on.”

What’s more, they not only accepted and completed that mission, they became so proficient that they set a national time standard, earning yet more national recognition.

Hotchkiss said he was impressed, but not surprised. He said he was fortunate to follow Maj. Vincent Habeck as commander of the unit, because Habeck helped lead it to its current national prominence.

The captain explained the special spot in his heart for his soldiers, because he started his military career with Bravo Battery.

“This battery is where I got my start, so I have a strong bond with it,” he said. “Winning this award is a reflection of the brotherhood in the Bravo battery and a credit to its leadership over the years.”

Former battery commander Habeck nominated the unit for the Alexander Hamilton Award as the nation’s top artillery unit, citing its work with the decontamination mission as well as its top-fire honors. In his nominating letter, he wrote:

“The soldiers and officers of Bravo Battery demonstrated a remarkable ability to adapt to changing environments in 2012. Ever the professionals, each member of the unit placed completion of the mission above his personal needs. Soldiers worked hard and long to complete multiple competing priorities.”

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