After completing the five-month Basic Officer Leadership Course, 2nd Lt. Joshua Shepherd, 36, will assume command of the National Guard soldiers assigned to the local armory. He resides in Portland and holds a third-degree black belt in Ninjitsu and has specialized training in HAZMAT response.
Shepherd earned a bachelor’s degree in general sciences from Portland State University. He has served as an Army medic but is now studying for a nursing degree at Oregon Health and Science University while working at the Oregonian newspaper. “I think a good officer works closely with good non-commissioned officers (soldiers) to keep the soldiers amped and interested in doing their best,” said Shepherd, who worked his way up through the ranks since enlisting four years ago.
Second Lt. Alvin Hatfield, 22, has also been in the Guard for four years. He is still waiting to learn if he will deploy to Iraq in September with the 3rd Battalion of the 116th Calvary Regiment, which includes 40 soldiers from Hood River.
Hatfield has just completed studies at Pullman, Wash., to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in general studies and plans to continue his education. Every month, he makes the four-and-a-half-hour commute from the rural community to train in Hood River. “As an officer, you have to always be striving for more but doing so by showing respect for your soldiers so that you will get respect back,” said Hatfield.
Second Lt. Sam Specht, 23, has been a member of the Guard for five years and lives in Gold Hill. He travels seven hours to join soldiers at the Gorge armory on drill weekends. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in criminology from Southern Oregon University and is continuing his education. Specht is set to become the commander of a Woodburn unit after completing the spring and summer endurance challenges set up by the Army. “I think being an officer means that you have more responsibility, more work and more of an opportunity to make a difference,” said Specht.
Second Lt. Charles Schumacher, 23, has been in the Guard for six years and is a new graduate of Eastern Oregon University. His area of expertise is computer science/business and his studies were partially paid by an ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Course) scholarship. Schumacher resides in La Grande, about four hours away from the Hood River unit. He will transfer to Charlie Company in Ontario once he has completed the leadership course. “An officer needs to ensure that his soldiers are up-to-date on their training because you never know when the state will need something and call upon us,” said Schumacher.
All four lieutenants currently fill artillery officer positions but will focus much of their time during the next year on assisting the families of deployed soldiers at their respective armories.