By Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur – Idaho Military Division Public Affairs
SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA, Calif. – The Idaho National Guard’s 101st Civil Support Team was among several National Guard CSTs that participated in a large-scale exercise in Northern California Feb. 1-5.
The exercise, BAYEX 2021, tested the ability of Idaho, Oregon and Nevada CST teams to assist the California National Guard’s 95th CST while responding to training scenarios in the Bay Area involving weapons of mass destruction emergencies.
“This exercise gives us valuable training in our ability to respond to a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear event,” said Lt. Col. Christina Taylor, commander of the 101st CST. “We have taken significant actions to ensure the 22 Soldiers and Airmen of the CST have the opportunity to continue to refine their skills in collective training exercises such as BAYEX.”
To initiate the exercise, biologically actionable results were simulated inside an abandoned military facility and a transit boat transporting people around the San Francisco Bay Area. The hazardous agent triggered phase one sampling, which resulted in federal agencies requesting support from the National Guard’s civil support teams. Civil support teams work closely with law enforcement and first responders, including the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and explosive ordnance disposal teams.
“It is important for every state’s governors and the nation to know that in the event of a small or large-scale emergency, the CST units are designed to respond and support local and federal civilian agencies,” said Taylor.
The Oregon National Guard’s 102nd and the Nevada National Guard’s 92nd CST also supported the California National Guard’s 95th CST training exercise.
“I truly enjoyed participating in this event,” said Staff Sgt. Troy McDonald, 101st CST survey team chief. “The exercise allowed our team to interact with other CST members and cross-train with each other, sharing best practices and procedures.”
Participating in large-scale exercises helps the 101st CST remain ready to respond to emergencies throughout Idaho and the nation. The unit supports civil authorities at domestic incident sites, which may involve areas affected by terrorism or natural disasters.
“It is vital to continue training for emergencies even as the global COVID-19 pandemic continues,” said Taylor. “It’s imperative that the Idaho National Guard civil support team remains trained and ready to respond at all times to our local community, as well as neighboring states, in the event of a large-scale real-world HAZMAT emergency.”
Idaho Military Division Public Affairs
(GOWEN FIELD) — The Idaho National Guard will send approximately 300 Soldiers and Airmen to Washington, D.C. in the coming days to assist district and federal agencies with the presidential inauguration. These Guardsmen will augment the Washington D.C. National Guard and serve in support of the U.S. Secret Service, the lead federal agency responsible for coordinating the event.
Personnel will begin departing from Gowen Field in Boise less than 72 hours after Gov. Brad Little approved the mission. The Nation’s Guard response could include an estimated 25,000 Guard members from all states and territories.
“The National Guard has participated in every presidential inauguration in our nation’s history,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak, adjutant general of Idaho. “It is an honor to be a part of the tradition of ensuring the peaceful and orderly transition of national power; an act that separates us from many other countries across the world.”
Guardsmen will travel to Washington, D.C. via military airlift and contracted aircraft with standard government-issued equipment to perform a number of potential tasks to include security, communications, medical, logistics, and safety support to district and federal agencies. Nearly half of the National Guard task force will conduct security-related duties to include traffic control or by assisting visitors to proper assembly locations as well as entry and exit points.
The Idaho National Guard has planned for more than a month to send roughly a dozen personnel to the region in support of the inauguration. The increase in personnel is part of a new request to provide additional Guard support and represents roughly six percent of the Idaho National Guard force.
This deployment does not involve Soldiers and Airmen already working in their communities as part of the COVID-19 response effort. The Idaho National Guard will continue to maintain its capacity to provide emergency response in Idaho, whether it be a COVID surge, civil unrest, natural disaster or other emergency response function.
The Idaho National Guard has deployed out of state in support of national emergencies in the past. From Hurricane Katrina in 2005, wildland fire suppression in Oregon and Washington in 2015, to Puerto Rico for Hurricane Maria recovery support in 2017, the Idaho National Guard has provided hundreds of Soldiers and Airmen over the last decade in response to national emergencies.
More recently, last summer the Idaho National Guard sent Soldiers and helicopters to fight California wildfires and more than 400 Soldiers to Washington, D.C. to assist with civil unrest response. Additionally, the Idaho National Guard continues to provide state emergency relief here at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur, Idaho Military Division Public Affairs
Sgt. Sarah Field put on the Army uniform for her first time when she enlisted in June 2010, and 10 years later, she puts on that uniform with a little more pride as she is now the Idaho Army National Guard’s first certified female 19D cavalry scout instructor at the 1st Battalion, 204th Regional Training Institute (Armor) at Gowen Field.
Although she grew up in Boise, Idaho, Field started her military career in the Utah National Guard, while she attended college at Utah State University. During her time in the Utah National Guard she served one combat tour in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom as a chaplain assistant. Following her initial military training and deployment, Field graduated from USU in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in parks and recreation. After graduation, she transferred to the Idaho Army National Guard to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team, to come back to her hometown.
In 2020, she transitioned into the combat arms, wanting to be a cavalry scout, with the seed planted in her mind of becoming a certified instructor. While assigned to the HHC, 2nd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment, Field became a more experienced scout team member as a truck commander and Bradley gunner. On Dec. 4, Field became certified to instruct cavalry scouts in the Military Occupational Specialty – Reclassification course (MOS-R) and on Dec. 22, she became certified to instruct the Bradley Commander and Gunner Course (BCGC). Her next goal is to be certified as an instructor for the Advanced Leadership Course (ALC).
“Becoming a certified instructor can be a long process,” said Field. “First you must go through the specific class as a student, then shadow the class, and follow up by teaching specific lesson plans back to the instructors. Once you complete those steps you become a provisional instructor and teach the classes while you are being shadowed and evaluated. I am now certified in two of the three courses in just nine months.”
Field attended the MOS-R as a cavalry scout student in February 2020. She was the only female in the combat arms class of 12 students but she knew she had to get through the challenging course to be considered for an instructor position.
“The MOS-R course is demanding and extremely physically and mentally challenging,” said Field. “It starts off with a 12-mile ruck march, heavy physical demands testing, day and night land navigation and works up to the Gunnery Skills Testing. I was definitely nervous and afraid of failing, but I knew if I didn’t try then I would never know what I was capable of accomplishing in my career.”
The GST consists of testing on ammunition and vehicle identification, small and medium weapons systems and other Bradley platform specific tasks. Despite having little previous combat arms experience, Field went on to graduate the 19D MOS-R in March and the 19D BCGC and the 19D ALC in August, completing all of the courses the 19D instructors teach. She is now certified as the instructor for the two courses and is currently starting the process to be certified as the instructor for the 19D ALC.
“I am grateful to have the opportunity be the first female instructor here at the Regional Training Institute. I feel it is important to have diversity in the learning environment,” said Field. “We all have different experiences and can relate to others in different ways. I have been able to use my gifts and talents to enhance the ways I teach our curriculum at the schoolhouse, helping students overcome their own challenges and learn and grow as Soldiers.”
On Nov. 13, Gov. Brad Little activated 100 members from the Idaho National Guard as cases of COVID-19 elevated throughout the state. For the past several weeks, the Idaho National Guard has partnered with agencies and organizations across Idaho as the battle against COVID-19 continues.
On Dec. 11, that number was increased to 250 under an authorization pursuant to 23 U.S.C. Section 502(f), which uses a mixture of state and federal resources to fund personnel. Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen are expected to remain on duty through March 2021.
“As medical providers across the state continue to call on the Guard for assistance, this additional authorization provides the Guard with an increased capability to respond to simultaneous short-notice requests,” Little said. “With members of the Guard performing these missions, it frees up health care workers to focus on providing critical patient care.”
The activation was the second time Little has called on the Idaho National Guard for additional assistance. In April, Little activated nearly 50 citizen-Soldiers and Airmen for approximately a month to assist at food banks throughout the state as the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit Idaho.
Guardsmen are currently stationed at several central district health centers, local hospitals, health care facilities and medical centers, COVID-19 testing stations, foodbanks and the Lighthouse Rescue Mission, while also partnering with Good Samaritan staff and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.
“When the Idaho National Guard is called upon, it’s your friends, family and neighbors coming together to support our communities,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak, adjutant general of Idaho. “We are all citizens of Idaho, working toward the same goal.”
Idaho National Guard leadership recently visited several sites across the state to see how Idaho citizen-Soldiers and Airmen are making an impact throughout the community. Primary Health’s CEO, David Peterman, told the Guard’s leadership on that visit that since the Idaho National Guard began assisting, Primary Health has completed roughly 15,000 extra COVID-19 tests.
Guardsmen are conducting COVID-19 testing and screening, traffic control, lab work, data entry and facility decontamination and sanitization. Additionally, personnel are helping prepare baskets full of food and other necessities to be delivered to those in need.
“The Idaho National Guard is proud to partner with the incredible staff and leadership of Idaho’s health districts and our tribal leadership to build capacity across multiple fronts,” said Brig. Gen. Russ Johnson, director of the joint staff. “From COVID testing and screening, to essential distribution of food and daily staples, together we are making a positive impact in the lives of Idaho’s Citizens.”
Idaho Military Division Public Affairs
Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur
A U.S. flag, in honor of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, was presented on Nov. 2 to the tribe council. This special flag was flown through the skies over Afghanistan one night during the Idaho Air National Guard’s recent Southwest Asia deployment.
The “Warrior Spirit,” an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft dedicated to the tribes several years ago by the IDANG, participated in several night missions throughout the deployment.
Capt. Mike Shufeldt, 124th Fighter Wing pilot, remembers the night of June 18, 2020 vividly. He was flying the Warrior Spirit and situated next to him, near his lap, was the special U.S. flag honoring the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.
He recalls taking off as the sun was setting, climbing above the mountain peaks off to his west. He saw a flash of light on the ground near a known allied checkpoint location. He immediately realized the checkpoint was under attack by what appeared to be grenades and gunfire.
He spent the next three hours defending the checkpoint from the air in the Warrior Spirit against the enemy ground forces. Although he received fire several times throughout the altercation, the enemy was unsuccessful in hitting the aircraft.
“The Warrior Spirit kept me safe and granted me the ability to protect the friendlies,” said Shufeldt. “Be it luck or fate, the Warrior Spirit and I were at the right place at the right time that night to save lives and affect the fight.”
While presenting the flag, Shufeldt told the Shoshone-Bannock Council about that special night in the Warrior Spirit.
“On behalf of myself and the Idaho National Guard, please accept this flag that I flew on that mission that night, in recognition of the Warrior Spirit and the mission it continues to help us accomplish,” said Shufeldt.
During the 124th Fighter Wing’s deployment to Southwest Asia, several U.S. flags were flown in honor of each tribe and will also be dedicated and presented.
Businessmen Troy McClain and Bedros Keuilian support Idaho’s Youth ChalleNGe Academy with a big surprise
By Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur
PIERCE, Idaho – One of Idaho’s well-known reality TV show stars and businessman Troy McClain, joined forces with international businessman Bedros Keuilian who is widely known for his influential fitness brands as well as one of the largest health franchise entrepreneurs in the world today. Now, the Idaho National Guard knows him for his act of kindness on Nov. 6 by donating thousands of dollars’ worth of gym equipment to the Idaho Youth ChalleNGe Academy.
McClain focuses on making positive changes in the lives of children around the globe. Today, he honed in locally to show his support to the Idaho Youth ChalleNGe Academy. Inspired by the Adjutant General of Idaho Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak’s passion for giving back to the IDYCA, McClain joined the cause. The IDYCA is a Department of Defense and IDNG collaborative program designed to give second chances to Idaho’s youth who are 16 to 18 years old, and who have either dropped out of high school or are at risk of doing so.
A month earlier, the IDNG invited McClain to visit the IDYCA. Garshak spoke passionately about his commitment to the Idaho program and his commitment to the cadets. During the visit, McClain asked both the students and faculty the question, “If you could have one thing to help support this program, what would that be?” He then repeated the same question to leadership of the IDNG.
McClain said he was awed by each response. In each answer they all simply asked to make the program better for the cadets who follow their footsteps. The cadets collectively identified the need for better fitness equipment; the faculty and staff requested more inspirational and motivational leaders who could engage with the cadets; and the IDNG leadership wanted more exposure for the IDYCA so the public can learn more about this program.
“Armed with my answers and inspired by the thoughtfulness for others I could only identify one single person who would be able to achieve all these requests in one,” said McClain. “I immediately called my good friend and businessman Bedros Keuilian. In such a time of crisis, I knew getting gym equipment; access to motivational speakers; and covering delivery costs would to be limited. I also knew the best way to get ahead is to give back and I absolutely knew Keuilian was the man to call. When I call on friends for help, I vow to ensure it wont be for myself and it will be for a cause that aligns with their values and propose in life.”
Keuilian was an immediate yes for donating the gym equipment and giving his time to visit the academy, and to meet and inspire the cadets. The equipment donated consists of new balance balls, battle ropes, box jumps, jump ropes, kettlebells, medicine balls, pull-up stations and weight-lifting sandbags. To top it all off, McClain and Keuilian created a team of motivated representatives and flew them to Pierce to spend the day with the cadets. Former Navy SEAL, CIA contractor and TV actor Ray “Cash” Care, and U.S. Marine Steve Eckert, were brought along to visit the cadets and instruct a special workout session designed to prove to the cadets that they can endure and overcome difficult challenges. By the end of the workout, each cadet successfully completed the rigorous tasks provided by Care and Eckert.
The IDYCA is administered by the Department of Defense and is a cooperative program between the Idaho Military Division and the National Guard’s Youth ChalleNGe Program. The academy provides students the potential to earn up to a year’s worth of credits, to graduate from the program with a high school diploma or GED, or return to their respective high schools to graduate with their class.
For motivation, the cadets participated in an extremely challenging obstacle course to build resiliency and Keuilian delivered an inspirational speech about what he endured in his life to get to where he is today.
“I didn’t even make it through high school. What makes me think I could make it through college?” said Keuilian. “How could I own a fitness franchise and a software company? Because I have heart. I am driven and because I know my purpose.”
More than 30 U.S. states currently have a similar cooperative program. Idaho’s program has helped reshape the lives of more than 1,200 Idaho teens since welcoming its first class in January 2014. Each class is a 22-week program and is offered twice a year.
“The Idaho Youth ChalleNGe Academy’s mission to reclaim the lives of Idaho’s at-risk youth is one of my top priorities,” said Garshak. “The Idaho National Guard is so grateful that these amazing people were willing to donate their time and talent today to help our cadets realize their full potential.”
Chief Master Sgt. Harold Bongiovi sees a lot of similarities between working with horses and working with the Soldiers and Airmen he oversees as the Idaho National Guard’s senior enlisted leader.
Bongiovi spends his days around horses. He grew up around them. He trains a few, but most of his time is spent working as a farrier, someone who specializes in horseshoeing. Because every horse’s hoof is different, each shoe must be pre-made or shaped to that specific horse, similar to the personalities of each Soldier and Airman.
“Horsemanship skills are similar to leadership skills,” he said. “The language is different, but it’s the same theory. Horses look for leadership capabilities from the people they are around just like people do. They just speak a different language. They respond to good quality leadership and they resent hard-handed leadership, just like people.”
Bongiovi spends at least one day a week and one weekend a month working alongside Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak, adjutant general of Idaho and the commander of the Idaho National Guard. Bongiovi credits the balance he finds between his military and civilian careers with prolonging both.
“Over the years, I’ve liked being able to do something different,” he said. “The opportunities I’ve had in the military sure beat shoeing horses six days a week, 52 weeks a year.”
Bongiovi estimates that the weekly break has added another four or five years to his horseshoeing career, which began on his grandfather’s farm. Bongiovi grew up there and his grandfather always had horses.
“I had the bug when I was a kid and there’s no cure,” he said.
When Bongiovi was 16, he needed someone to shoe one of his horses but couldn’t find anyone to do it so he decided to figure it out himself. His neighbors asked him to shoe their horses. Then their neighbors told their neighbors they knew someone who could shoe horses. By 17, Bongiovi realized he could make money shoeing horses.
Bongiovi joined the United States Air Force in 1985 to go to college. However, he realized he wasn’t able to attend classes due to his travel schedule as a KC-135 crew chief. After four years, he got out of the Air Force and moved back to Idaho without intending to continue his military career.
In 1989, he joined the Idaho Air National Guard’s 124th Fighter Wing.
“I started thinking, ‘I have all this experience, maybe I shouldn’t let it go to waste.’”
He was hired into a full-time position shortly after but in 1996, his part-time horseshoeing business started to take off so he decided to become a part-time Guardsman.
Bongiovi said he wouldn’t have gotten to travel as much as he has without the National Guard experience. In addition, he said being a traditional Guardsman keeps him fresh because he’s able to take a break from a problem and approach it again with a fresh set of eyes.
Bongiovi was appointed as the state enlisted leader in 2017 and is the second Airman to hold the position. As the state’s senior enlisted member, he communicates directly to the state’s commanding general on behalf of the Idaho National Guard’s enlisted members.
He also helps interpret policy from the National Guard Bureau for implementation across the Idaho National Guard, while also keeping the adjutant general apprised of current issues affecting enlisted personnel.
More than a dozen Idaho Army National Guard Soldiers participated in the National Guard’s Cyber Shield 20 exercise Sept 12-27. Members of Idaho’s Defense Cyber Operations Element were among nearly 600 Soldiers from more than 40 states who participated in the two-week training event.
The defensively focused tactical annual cyber exercise was hosted virtually this year and gave Idaho Soldiers the chance to develop and use their cyber defense skills while building key relationships with the state’s Office of Information Technology Services, its mission partner, during the exercise.
“We ensure the state understands our capabilities and that if called upon, we can respond within the legal bounds of cyber defense,” said Col. Dan Lister, IDARNG Chief Information Officer.
During the exercise, each team worked with a mission partner representing an industry partner. Teams assessed networks for vulnerabilities and assisted in recovery operations after a cyber incident.
“It sharpens the skills of our cyber-warriors, who hone their skills throughout the year and the come here ready to lock and load on their weapon systems, their computers,” said Maj. Eric Burgan, the team’s deputy team chief.
Teams spent the first week of the exercise training on cyber threat analysis, systems analysis, information control systems and information operations. The second week tested Soldiers’ skills while conducting cyber incident response and network defense operations.
In previous years, the exercise focused on a weeklong scenario held in person at a central location, but with teams spread out across the country to accommodate Covid-19 safety restrictions, exercises focused on two vignettes per day, which were designed to test specific skill sets.
Burgan said training alongside the state’s IT office allows the team to build trust at the top level that extends to Idaho’s local cities and counties. Across the nation, National Guard DCOEs work with public partners to asses vulnerabilities and help protect public networks.
Idaho’s DCOE stood up in 2016 with the intent to train with community partners and respond to any cyber emergencies within the state, similar to other emergency missions the Idaho National Guard performs.
Capt. Robert Taylor
Idaho National Guard
Ray Servatius has a lot to think about at night. Mostly he thinks about that day in Korea when his plane was shot down. The pilot was likely dead before the plane hit the ground. Another Soldier was killed trying to reach him. He spent the next 309 days as a prisoner of war.
“What if I had stayed in that plane 20 more seconds?” he said. “I’d be like the pilot. What if I had jumped earlier? What if my gun had ammo in it? I have a lot of thoughts like that.”
Despite those questions, Servatius said he’s lived a pretty normal life since returning home to Clarkston, Washington, in 1953, shortly after the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed.
“I met this nice lady from Lewiston and married her,” he said. “We had three kids and had a pretty normal life after that.”
“WHERE MY FRIENDS WERE”
Servatius was 19 when he enlisted into the Idaho Army National Guard’s 1st of the 148th Field Artillery Regiment in 1949. The unit, now located in Eastern Idaho, was located in Northern Idaho at the time and Servatius lived in Clarkston, just miles across the Idaho border.
“That’s where my friends were,” he said of joining an Idaho National Guard unit despite living in Washington.
It was also the unit his younger brother, Fred, enlisted in just before the unit deployed.
The 1-148th Field Artillery was activated in May 1951 and sent to Camp Carson, Colorado, for training.
The Idaho National Guard’s 116th Engineer Battalion, the 190th Fighter Squadron and the 25th Army Band also activated during the conflict. Only the engineers would deploy to Korea as a unit. Soldiers from the 1-148th were broken up and sent to units already in Korea. Half of the unit remained stateside.
Servatius attended a fire direction school and additional leadership training before being sent to Korea. After all that training, he said he was happy to be heading to Korea in April 1952 and that he was anxious to get going.
“Young kid’s foolishness,” he says, looking back nearly seven decades later.
Servatius, 22, was a sergeant assigned to a field artillery unit in the 7th Army as the head of a survey section. He said there wasn’t much for him to do since the battalion was in a permanent position and didn’t move the three months he was there.
In July, the Air Force asked for volunteers to fly as aerial observers. He was the only Soldier from the 7th Army selected.
“I don’t know if that was dumb luck or poor luck,” he said.
IN THE SKY
As an aerial observer, Servatius flew with the 6147th Tactical Air Command. He would fly with an Air Force pilot in a T-6 Texan, a single-engine plane used primarily for training new pilots.
Servatius’ job was to sit in the back seat and observe targets for fighter planes or bombers. A command post would give the crew a target. The crew would fly to the location, observe it, report what it could see to other pilots and mark targets for bombing using smoke. After a bombing run, Servatius and the pilot assigned to fly the T-6 would fly back over the target to assess for damage and determine if additional bombs were needed.
Servatius flew 60 missions between July and Oct. 24, 1952. On Oct. 23, he completed a mission with Capt. Wilbur Darby. The flight began in the afternoon but by the time the pair completed their mission, it was too foggy for Darby to return to base and instead were directed to spend the night at a different base.
Darby, a B-24 pilot during World War II, had earned the Distinguished Flying Cross after sinking a Japanese freighter he encountered on a lone mission. He was from New Jersey and was married with three daughters between the ages of five and eight.
On Oct. 24, the pair left the airbase to complete their second mission together. Upon mission completion, Servatius said Darby realized he left his pistol at the base where they had stayed the night before. The pair returned to retrieve it and shortly after were assigned a third mission together. It would be 48 years before Darby’s family would learn the details of their final flight.
The mission was to observe Chinese artillery positions for four F-86 Sabres. Darby and Servatius located the target and directed the fighter jets to it. As they were circling the target to assess for damage, anti-aircraft fire hit the plane.
“It sounded like a .22 bullet going through a tin can,” Servatius said.
Servatius then called over the radio that the plane had been hit. Darby did not respond.
The plane then started to burn. Once again, Servatius called out for Darby over the plane’s intercom. Darby still did not respond.
Servatius then released his seat belt, opened the plane’s canopy, stood up and jumped.
Servatius said his parachute barely had time to open before he landed. He immediately realized he had landed on the Chinese side of “No Man’s Land.” He took off the bright blue flight suit he wore over his Army fatigues and noticed his left leg was broken and his right leg wasn’t much better. He isn’t sure if he hit his legs on the plane’s canopy or its tail once he ejected.
He could see his plane on fire and hear artillery bursting all around him. Servatius said he later learned from an Army buddy the artillery was dropped to keep nearby Chinese soldiers away from him. Another Soldier watched his plane crash from an outpost. Four days later, that Soldier, Sgt. Fred Servatius, learned he had watched his brother’s plane get shot down.
After a few minutes, Servatius heard a helicopter coming and thought it was his ride back to base. He watched them land near his plane and pick up Darby’s body. Then the helicopter left.
“THEY WOULD HAVE KILLED ME”
Servatius then started crawling towards the plane. He quickly ran into Sgt. 1st Class Charles Whitaker.
In 2002, Servatius learned Whitaker was in charge of a patrol and saw Servatius’ plane go down. He had been the one to call the helicopter to retrieve Darby. He also saw Servatius’ blue flight suit and assumed it was Servatius’ body. He was on his way to retrieve Servatius’ body when the two met.
Servatius said Whitaker told him Chinese soldiers were nearby and to get his .45 pistol out. As he cocked his weapon, he realized the magazine was missing. He believes it likely fell out when he ejected and hit his legs on the plane.
Chinese soldiers then ambushed the two. Servatius saw Whitaker get hit and never saw him again. Because Servatius’ pistol was empty, he couldn’t fire back at the enemy. After Whitaker was shot, they quickly took Servatius prisoner.
“If I had had ammo and shot back, they would have killed me,” he said.
Whitaker was killed during the firefight. He was 27. His body was found next to the plane’s wreckage a few days later.
PRISONER OF WAR
Servatius was unable to walk due to his broken leg so he was ordered to crawl up a steep hill. He was taken into a cave filled with Chinese soldiers where one of them tied a board to his leg. At dark, Servatius said he was carried on a stretcher by four Chinese soldiers all night. The next day, they stopped at a house where he was interrogated and forced to stay awake all day. At nightfall, he was moved to a POW holding place.
Servatius remembers being held in a hole dug in the side of a hill with a log roof and a front wall made of four small logs with a wooden door. The makeshift prison held 10 American Soldiers and eight South Korean soldiers with just enough room for everyone to lay down if they all laid on their sides. Servatius said there was only a small hole in the front and that it was dark most of the time.
The POWs ate rice twice a day. There wasn’t any water for hygiene and lice and other sanitary issues were prevalent. Soldiers used a single can for a latrine. Each Soldier was given one blanket, which Servatius said was never cleaned and was his only source of heat as temperatures regularly dropped below zero.
After two months, Servatius said he was moved to a POW camp. By then, his leg had healed enough to stand on. The trip took several days and Servatius said it was cold and he suffered frostbite on his toes during the trip.
Servatius was taken to what was known as Prison Camp Number 3 on the Yalu River. He said he could see into China across the river. The camp had approximately 200 soldiers from multiple countries. Servatius said the living conditions were better than his previous location. They were confined to Korean houses but had to sleep on hard floors. Food was varied but consisted mainly of rice. Soldiers dug trenches around the compound and hauled firewood in from nearby trees during the day. A creak provided Soldiers with water to wash and stay clean.
Soldiers were also given communist pamphlets and interrogated regulary. Servatius said interrogation efforts were mianly focused on younger or undereducated Soldiers in an attempt to get those Soldiers to defect. No one in the camp defected.
In February 1953, both sides exchanged sick and wounded prisoners. One released Soldier, Pvt. Walker, called Servatius’ parents when he reached the States. It was the first update they received on their son’s whereabouts and conditions since being notified he was captured.
On July 27, the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed, bringing an end to the Korean conflict. The POWs had no way of knowing what was happening outside their camp. However, Servatius said the local area normally remained dark after 10 p.m. but that night he could several lanterns burning bright throughout the area. A Chinese officer notified the Soldiers that a peace treaty had been signed and that they would be going home.
The Soldiers remained in the camp another three weeks. Red Cross care packages provided Soldiers with basic necessities during that time. Soldiers were transported across Korea in trucks and Servatius said locals threw rocks and other objects at them in every town. The trip ended with a four-day train ride and then the POWs waited another six days to be released, crossing over a bridge at Imingak over the Imjin River.
Servatius was released on Aug. 29, 1953, 309 days after he was captured. He weighed 135 pounds, 45 pounds less than before his capture.
Servatius and other POWs took the USS General W.M. Black to San Francisco.
“They said we’d go home first-class,” he said. “What that meant was that there was a man to every other bunk in the ship instead of every bunk.”
Servatius was diagnosed with tuberculosis in his lungs and left shoulder. He was expected to recover in Seattle but was assigned to a hospital in Spokane to be closer to his home. Once in Spokane, he took a bus to Clarkston, arriving close to midnight. A friend with a taxi cab gave him a free ride to his parents’ house. That night he slept in the back of a family car because his parents had gone to Seattle to meet him there.
LIFE AT HOME
Servatius got out of the Idaho Army National Guard shortly after returning home. He was the only 1-148th Field Artillery Soldier who was a POW in Korea. During the conflict, 7,245 American service members were captured. 2,806 of them died in captivity, 670 escaped and 21 defected. Nearly 40,000 Americans died during the conflict and more than 7,800 remain unaccounted.
Servatius returned to the job he had before deploying to Korea, working for a wholesale magazine distributor. Six months later he and Fred bought out the distributor’s owner when he was ready to retire and ran Servatius News Agency together until 1998. Fred passed away in 2015 at the age of 82.
Servatius married his wife, Carol, in 1954. The two remain married and have three adult children. He turned 90 earlier this month.
In 2000, Darby’s family learned about his final flight when an officer with the Rutgers University Air Force ROTC program contacted Servatius looking for any information he could remember about Darby.
Servatius recalled flying with a different pilot almost every flight. He had been unable to remember the pilot’s name on his final mission and wasn’t sure who to contact to find out. He told the officer everything he could remember about Darby’s final days.
That officer conveyed his story to Darby’s wife and three children. His family knew he had been shot down and killed in action, but they knew very few other details. His daughters named their children after their father, passing on Darby as either a first or middle name in his honor.
In 2002 the ROTC program dedicated a Korean War monument in memory of Darby and the program’s Air Force ROTC’s honor society is named after him. Darby graduated from Rutgers in 1940.
In 2003, the Clarkson City Council proclaimed Sept. 19 as Ray Servatius Day to mark the 50th anniversary of the battalion’s deployment and reunion.
During the reunion, Maj. Gen. John Kane presented Servatius with the Purple Heart and Prisoner of War Medal, neither of which he had previously received. Kane served as the adjutant general of Idaho from 1995 – 2005.
Several Airmen from the Idaho Air National Guard’s 266th Range Squadron and their specialized Joint Threat Emitter equipment deployed this week to Scotland, United Kingdom, after being specifically requested by the No. 11 Group Royal Air Force to support them in numerous joint exercises for the next couple months during the unit’s Carrier Strike Group deployment.
“This is just another example of the capability and flexibility of today’s Idaho National Guard Airmen,” said Brig. Gen. Tim Donnellan, commander, Idaho Air National Guard. “The expertise of what these Airmen are able to provide with their knowledge of the emitter equipment is directly in line with our National Defense Strategy in preparing for future conflicts, and truly shows their commitment and professionalism.”
Idaho’s 226th RANS possesses highly sought-after electronic warfare training capabilities due to the specialized Threat Emitter Units. The IDANG sent two four-person teams with two Joint Threat Emitters to the U.K. on Royal Air Force C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft.
“We are one of the only military units that has the Joint Threat Emitter equipment,” said Tech. Sgt. Phillip Mason from the 266th RANS. “We have the most experience operating and maintaining this equipment, therefore, we get a lot of requests to bring the emitters to a number of exercises around the world.”
The equipment emits radar signals, acting as opposing forces, to pilots flying aircraft in the sky above. The equipment provides scenarios in which pilots can react to threats they may face in real-world situations.
“That’s what makes this training great for pilots,“ said Mason. “In the real-world they will be able to recognize that signal after training with this equipment and avoid being shot down.”
This training will help U.K. pilots achieve high-end collective training objectives during the Carrier Strike Group exercises. Additionally, U.S. Marine Corps ground troops are participating in the deployment and will provide a joint capability training opportunity.
“I am incredibly proud to serve with the Airmen of the IDANG,” said Donnellan. “They always answer the call, even if takes them near the top of the world to Scotland, our Airmen are ready to go. It’s humbling and awe inspiring.”