TACOMA – Brig. Gen. Oscar Hilman, who led the largest deployment of Washington National Guard troops since World War II when the 81st Armor Brigade was sent to Iraq, retired Saturday after 36 years of military service.
Hilman, 55, stepped down in a ceremony at Camp Murray. Col. Michael McCaffree, 49, will assume command of the brigade. He was Hilman’s deputy during the 81st’s year-long deployment to Iraq.
The Iraq mission “is really the highlight of my life, being given the opportunity to excel,” Hilman said. “The soldiers did an outstanding job.”
The 81st, including 3,400 Washington guardsmen, went to Iraq in March and April 2004. Its primary mission was to protect Logistical Support Area Anaconda near Balad, the largest U.S. military base in Iraq. Some 81st units were stationed in Baghdad, while others performed base security missions in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Maj. Gen. Tim Lowenberg, commander of the Washington National Guard, said Hilman was “a pillar of leadership” throughout the change.
“He is simply unflappable in the face of chaos,” Lowenberg said. .
The brigade lost 10 soldiers in its year in Iraq, five from its Washington state-based units. Soldiers returned home in March and April.
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