Staying active is the name of the game
October marked 20 years that Staff Sgt. Matt Christensen has served in the Oregon National Guard — a military service story with interesting and unique experiences.
Hailing from Woodburn High School’s Cass of 1982, Christensen, 59, enlisted in the Army in 1983. He graduated from FT Eustis VA Aviation School as a surveillance aircraft repairman and was assigned to the 224th MI Hunter Army Airfield.
While in the Army, Christensen was deployed to Palmerola, Honduras, multiple times to support the Nicaraguan Contras in their fight with the Sandinistas.
After his Army discharge, Christensen joined the National Guard in 1986 and a year later began working at Woodburn Fertilizer, now Wilbur-Ellis. During a fall visit with the Woodburn Independent, he emphasized that his support from his employer and his wife, Kim, has made his long-standing military career possible.
Christensen also paid homage to his father, John Christensen, a command sergeant major in the Oregon National Guard who served in World War II. Matt Christensen said reflection on his father’s character inspired him to further his military service after a 20-year hiatus. He left the National Guard in 1990 and re-upped in 2010.
“Dad was a go-getter,” Christensen said. “We moved to Woodburn in 1976, and he worked at General Foods. He worked as an accountant, but after work, he would drive a bus into Portland to get workers for the night shift.
“He was quite a character.”
The year 2012 proved to be a memorable one for Matt Christensen. He graduated from the All-Source Analyst School in Fort Huachuca, Arizona, and he won the Best Warrior contest. In 2014-15, he was deployed to Herat, Afghanistan, with the C Company 2-162 Infantry.
“I was deployed with about a one-week notice,” Christensen recalled. “I got a call on Monday, and by Friday of that same week, I was at Fort Hood in training for Afghanistan.”
Christensen’s most recent active-duty assignment with the Oregon Air National Guard has been part of the U.S. Transportation Command, a three-year stint as a federated intelligence mission manager. He also reported back to work at Wilbur-Ellis on Oct. 2 but anticipates more military service in the future.
“Wilbur-Ellis has been super supportive,” Christensen said. “After I got back from Afghanistan, I was named as the Western Division Employee of the Year…They’ve enabled me to be on orders for the past three years.”
Other highlights for Christensen include becoming the oldest soldier to graduate from the Air Assault School in 2019 and, more recently, passing the fighting fitness examination, which prompted him to envision more service in the near future.
“I’m 59 and still able to fight; I maxed the Army Combat Fitness Test, so I’m proud of that,” he said.
“I am supposed to retire in October (2023), but the commander requested that I stay, and it didn’t take much convincing for me to take him up on it,” Christensen said. “I might possibly be going to Kosovo next year.”
After that, who knows? When Christensen reflects on his experiences over the past four decades and projects those into his future, the only certainty he surmises is that he will be active and serving.
“I don’t know how long I can go, but I know I’m going to stay in as long as I can,” Christensen declared.