Doing Things Planes Can't Do: The Oregon Air National Guard Drum & Bugle Corps

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. (ret.) Gene Thomas
  • 142nd Fighter Wing History Office
The original Oregon Air National Guard Drum & Bugle Corps started with discussions beginning in May, 1958.  Their existence spanned approximately 14 years, ending sometime after 1972.  They formed to meet the need for marching music for the unit.  The team also wished to compete with other military and civilian ROTC Drum and Bugle Corps.

A nickname was considered, but the Adjutant General of Oregon said no, they will be called the Oregon Air National Guard Drum & Bugle Corps.

The volunteer members were well-represented from throughout the 142nd Fighter Group.  The Drum & Bugle Corps needed 38 male members for the ideal complement: 14 drummers, 18 buglers, two cymbalists, one Drum Major, three color guards and one glockenspiel.   A female baton twirler was also added for parade formations.

The first meeting to form the Oregon Air National Guard (OreANG) Drum & Bugle Corps was held in the main aircraft hanger on Nov. 6, 1958.  Lieutenants Rosenbaum and Howland were the co-directors and Master Sgt. Wil Unverricht the organizer and Drum Major.  The constitution and by-laws for the Corps were approved a short time later, by the Corps first Chairman, Capt. Marinus Opitz, Vice-Chairmen Lt's Ron Miller and Richard Martin, followed by final approval from the Adjutant General of Oregon, Maj. Gen. Alfred Hintz.

Many of the volunteer members of the new OreANG Drum & Bugle Corps played no musical instruments prior, so there was ample basic music and instrument training to address before band practice would start.

The next step in organizing the Corps was to get professional help locally.  Instruction in brass and percussion was provided by two of Portland's most outstanding musicians, Dr. John Richards of Lewis & Clark College and the Portland Symphony and Mr. Leo Browne of the Portland Symphony, who were experts.  In addition, practice sessions were held Monday nights and the instructor was CWO Richard Webb, commander of the Oregon National Guard 234th Army Band.

Two years passed before the Corps could successfully perform as a marching band and demonstrate its ability, so approval to use funds for new instruments were delayed until that time.

Uniforms and instruments were furnished at no cost to members. The first set of instruments was borrowed from the defunct Portland Police Drum & Bugle Corps.  The next set was rented from the Hillsboro American Legion; however, new instruments were identified for purchase by Sept. 13, 1958 using funds from all squadrons in the 142nd Fighter Group and from the Oregon State Military Department.

They traveled throughout Oregon and other states, as shown in past issues of the OreANG Air Scoop newsletter, to such places as Arizona, Wyoming and the USAF Academy. The first public performance of the OreANG Drum & Bugle Corps occurred in Portland on Veterans Day, 1960, and parade organizers awarded a Blue Ribbon to the OreANG Corps as the best Drum & Bugle Corps in the Veterans Day Parade. 

Although the Corps did have a historian assigned to the Drum & Bugle council, little evidence of historical data has been found as of this writing.  The Air Scoop Newsletter was not printed for nine years during the Drum & Bugle Corps' 14-year history and that period is where most of their activities and awards would have been shown.  Piecing together their record of achievements is a challenge.  But the 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs office has a donated scrapbook that has been helpful in telling this story.

Following are some, but not all of their performances in 1960-1962.  Activities such as these would be an example of those that occurred in the years to follow:

* November 25,1960, "Fairy Tale Christmas Parade."
* May, 1961, Armed Forces Day Parade in Portland, Oregon.
* June 3, 1961, Merykanna Parade, Portland, Oregon.
* June 10, 1961, 53rd annual Rose Festival "Grand Floral Parade" right behind the Portland AFB/USAF's Blue Ribbon-winning float.
* June, 17, 1961, "Phil Sheridan Days Parade", in Sheridan, Oregon, winning First Prize Ribbon.
* 1961 Oregon Air National Guard summer camp military review, with 20 F-89J's flying overhead.
* July 15, 1961, "Miss Oregon Pageant" at Seaside, Oregon.
* August, 26, 1961, 41st Annual "Astoria Oregon Regatta" winning a Blue Ribbon.
* October 14, 1961, performed in Salem, OR, for 7,000 Boy Scouts.
* November 11, 1961, Veterans Day Parade, winning a Blue Ribbon.

Here is one true example of forecast activity found in the March, 1962, issue of the OreANG Air Scoop newsletter which showed the upcoming 1962 Drum & Bugle Corps schedule: "Armed Forces Day parade, Rose Festival parade, Fourth of July celebration in Hillsboro, half-time performance at one of the Pro-Football games in Portland, Oregon State Drum & Bugle Corps competiton at Seaside OR, then a trip to Cheyenne WY where the world's third largest Rodeo is held" and performance at the "Miss Oregon Pageant.""

All the other years' schedules were similar or more involved.  Details in schedules and arrangements changed every year.  The Corps took two and a half months off during the winter season, and then was back at it again in February.

Original Oregon Air National Guard Drum & Bugle Corps members were: Team Captain, Capt. Marvin Brant, CWO-W3 Darl Jordan, CWO-W1 Parsy Rose II, chairman of the Corps, Master Sgt. Hal Copple, Master Sgt. Roy McGinnis, Master Sgt. Lewis Trujillo, Master Sgt. Wil Unverricht, Drum Major, Tech. Sgt. Wyeth Barnum, Tech. Sgt. Neal Cooper, Tech. Sgt. Bob Cornbaum, Tech. Sgt. Ted George, Tech. Sgt. Jim Hall, Tech. Sgt. Ed Hash, Tech. Sgt. Ken McCoy, Tech. Sgt. Dick Mill, Tech. Sgt. Elvis Tracy, Tech. Sgt. Bob Washburn, Staff Sgt. Larry Hodge, Staff Sgt. Gene Jarimillio, Staff Sgt. Ron Miller, Staff Sgt. Phil Robkins, Airman 1st Class Norman Cooper, Airman 1st Class Larry Tyle, Airman 1st Class Vern Quick, Airman 2nd Class Leland Edwards, Airman 2nd Class Gene Lorenz, Airman 3rd Class Ray Felgert, Airman 3rd Class Steve Grogan and Airman 3rd Class David Wilson.   Although the corps was composed of men, there was also a female baton twirler when the corps started out, a twirling champion, Ms. Carol Johnson.

They were a "Constant Compliment" to the community, State of Oregon, Oregon Military Department and the Oregon Air National Guard for over 14 years, giving their all and leaving a good image with their smart dress, difficult but expertly executed movements, music arrangements, and just doing things planes can't do.

Although the 142nd Fighter Wing today does not have a Drum & Bugle Corps, it has formed an active Base Honor Guard Team which moves with precision and military bearing.  These young professionals can draw appropriate inspiration from their predecessors in the OreANG's Drum & Bugle Corps.