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A tradition of service on display as the 1161st Transportation Company deactivates


A tradition of service on display as the 1161st Transportation Company deactivates

Story by Sgt. Michael Tietjen
122nd Public Affairs Operations Center

On March 6, 2016 at the National Guard Armory in the small Eastern Washington town of Ephrata, a proud group of current and former soldiers, family and community members gathered on the drill floor for what would be the 1161st Transportation Company’s final formation. A change that comes as a result of the Washington National Guard transformation.

An air of melancholy was evident among the hundreds of people in attendance who had been touched by the tight-knit unit over its 52 year history.

Established in 1964 as a medium-heavy truck transport unit, the 1161st Transportation Company performed numerous state and federal missions, including two deployments to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and Operation Enduring Freedom in 2009.  Its company motto “Hook and Book” is a reflection of its mission—to “hook” up to a load, and move out.  They performed more than 14,000 missions and drove more than one million miles over the two deployments.

“It melts your heart to see the unit going away. We are like a big family here,” said Staff Sgt. Keith Bond, a squad leader from Moses Lake with 15 years of service in the unit.

Staff Sgt. Kevin Carpenter, a squad leader from Spokane with nine years in the unit agreed, “Guys in this unit have turned down promotions just to stay here.”


Both Bond and Carpenter said that soldiers had come from all over the state, even Idaho and Oregon, to work in the 1161st. Sgt. Randy Kagele (Ret.) of Moses Lake served in the unit from 1966 to 1994 and fondly remembers the unit as being “a close-knit family.”

Three generations of Brathovdes are a testament to that. The Brathovde family, originally from Ephrata, have a tradition of service in the 1161st.  Spc. Greg Brathovde a truck driver from Olympia, is the third generation in his family to call the 1161st Transportation Company home. Before him, his father Master Sgt. Gary Brathovde (Ret.) served in the unit. So too did his uncles Rick and Barry Brathovde and  his grandfather Chief Warrant Officer 4 Paul Brathovde (Ret.).  Spc. Brathovde’s family tradition of service is interwoven with the proud history of the 1161st.


As the colors of the 1161st Transportation Company are displayed for the last time, the soldiers of this unit render a final salute. First Sgt. Stephanie Kettlewell, company first sergeant, Lt. Col. Zara Walters, 420th Chemical Battalion commander and Capt. James Hopkins, company commander, carefully furl the flag and case it in a protective sheath. The cased colors are then returned to the color bearer and marched off the floor according to military tradition.

The 1161st Transportation Company is now a piece of history, but the stories of its soldiers will continue. Most of the members have prepared to transfer to other transportation units to continue their service in the Washington National Guard. Some have decided to change jobs and try new challenges. Some are still undecided about their future. One thing is certain, the members of this historic unit, current and former, their families and the members of this community will remember with pride the honor, dedication and valor of the 1161st Transportation Company in service to their community, their state and their nation.