By Barb Strozewski
Robert Oberlander was born on June 13, 1984 in Kettering, Ohio.
When he was one month old, his family moved to Lemmon, SD, where Robert lived until he graduated from high school in 2003. During his school years he played football and basketball.
Robert’s parents owned the Waterhole #3 (a bar and grill) in Lemmon. Robert started working there at approximately 12 years of age until he was 16, when his parents sold Waterhole #3. He then went to work for Wheeler Manufacturing making jewelry and worked there until he graduated high school in 2003.
During his senior year of high school, Robert joined the National Guard Unit 854th Quartermaster Detachment on December 11, 2002, and with a chuckle said, “That’s when I signed my life away.” He graduated from high school in May of 2003 and in July of 2003, he shipped out for National Guard Basic and A.I.T. (advanced individual training). After six months, he finished that part of his training and returned home a week before Christmas. Christmas Day of 2003, Robert moved to Edgemont after accepting a job offer to work at his father’s grocery store.
Robert re-enlisted for three more years in 2008 and continued his one weekend a month commitment with his original unit, the Lemmon National Guard, until 2009. Shortly thereafter, the Armory in Lemmon was shut down and Robert’s unit was moved ‘lock, stock and barrel’ to Belle Fourche, with the 842nd Engineer Company. When Robert finished his enlistment, which ended December of 2011, he chose not to re-enlist for personal reasons and to also further his career with the railroad, which he had hired on with in August 2006.
While in the National Guard for the nine years (2002 through 2011) Robert found the following things noteworthy:
The summer of 2005 where he spent two weeks in Nicaragua helping there.
The winter of 2008/2009 his unit was activated to assist power companies in northern South Dakota by moving the snow and enabling the companies to install poles and cable etc. He thought folks might recall the severe ice storms and strong winds that toppled power poles and cable lines like dominos. That is the very time he and his unit were activated to help out.
Robert’s unit also did the work or helped build the following: the air strip (Crosswind Runway) at Sturgis airport, helped with the building of Custer State Park roads, and loaded cut timber onto transports for the guard unit from New Mexico, who were hauling the wood to Pine Ridge so they would have wood to use for heat in the winter.
His unit was deployed twice during his career. When he was a senior in high school the unit was deployed to Iraq. The second time was to Afghanistan when he had only two months of service remaining.
During the summer of 2012, he chose to attend the railroad’s engineering program and became a ‘Locomotive Engineer’ upon successful completion of that program.
Robert’s parting remark was, “Visit ‘The Shop’ and get your hair done by Ms. Renee Rudloff,” as he gave a nod, smiled and walked out the door.