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Ortmann Retires: Last Vietnam Vet in 185th

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Master Sgt. Michael Ortmann retired 6 January 2008, after 33 years of service in the military, nine of which were with the 185th Air Refueling Wing, Air National Guard, in Sioux City, Iowa. Ortmann was one of a handful of remaining members of the 185th to have served in Vietnam.

Ortmann grew up on a farm near Remsen, Iowa where he learned a solid Midwestern work ethic that would stay with him for his entire military career. At the age of 19 he joined the Navy and immediately following basic training, was sent to Vietnam as a cook. The majority of his tour was spent on the ground at an Advanced Attack Base along the 'Grand Canal,' ten miles from the Cambodian border. Ortmann said one of his most vivid memories were the floating barges on which they lived. During the rainy season the barges floated and were level, but when the rainy season was over, and things began to dry out, everything was at a slant. His second year was a little easier as he was assigned to the USS Enterprise and was able to stay aboard the ship.

After retiring from the Navy, Ortmann decided to join the 185th and Iowa Air Guard to make the most of his military benefits at the end of a good military career.

When asked to reflect on his military career both in the Navy and as a Guardsman with the 185th, Ortmann said he enjoyed his close relationships with his peers and how everyone got along to get the job done, no matter how difficult the task was or how bad the environment was in which he had to accomplish the task. "I got pretty close to the guys I was with in Vietnam. But, even here at the 185th we are like a family and I think that that's the thing about the military... where ever you go, you're a family," said Ortmann.

Ortmann also thought the military gave him an opportunity to appreciate the freedoms of the United States. "Nobody wants to go to war, but places like Vietnam and even Iraq make you appreciate the freedoms we have here. The military let me see that first hand. This country is pretty special," he said.

Ortmann plans to continue working as a security guard for Buena Vista University in Buena Vista, Iowa after retiring from the Guard. However, "I will probably do a little more fishing, and enjoy the outdoors a little more with my free time." said Ortman.