PORTLAND AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ore. – Like most kitchens
around the nation on Thanksgiving Day; the turkey is carefully
crafted, while potatoes are peeled, and other side dishes are being
prepared. Yet the distinction can be found here at the Alert
Facility this holiday, as Airmen of the 142nd Fighter Wing stand on
station, safeguarding the Pacific Northwest as part of the Aerospace
Control Alert mission.
The 142nd FW is one of fourteen alert
sites positioned around the United States that fall under the North
American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which conducts aerospace
warning and control, as well as maritime defense of North America.
The crew of two pilots and four maintainers working on Thanksgiving
are part of an overall team that flies the F-15C Eagle, providing
continuous defense 24/7.
Oregon Air National Guard Maj. Bradley
Young, a pilot assigned to the 123rd Fighter Squadron, 142nd Fighter
Wing, Portland Air National Guard Base, Ore., cuts a Thanksgiving
Turkey at the Alert Facility, as Staff Sgt. Matthew Shelburne, left,
and Tech. Sgt. Kyle Adair, center, prepare potatoes for dinner on
Nov. 27, 2014. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. John
Hughel, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affair)
“This is a case where it's a U.S. only holiday, so there
is always that thought about possible threats,” said Maj.
Bradley M. Young, senior alert pilot for the Thanksgiving
“Although this is not my actual family, this
is my military family and we're able to interact well while
still maintaining awareness of our mission,” he said.
As Young is busy cutting the first of two turkeys, Tech.
Sgt. Kyle Adair and Staff Sgt. Matthew Shelburne prepare
potatoes and discuss traditions they would be celebrating if
not on duty. In the background from an adjacent room, the
reverberations of the TV, broadcasting the football game
between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys. The
Eagles hold a commanding early lead.
this time is spent with my family and friends at home. The
only difference this year is not being at home with them,”
said Adair. “Hopefully, my fantasy football team wins; this
has become one of my favorite traditions.”
fortunate until now to be off on most major holidays,”
Shelburne remarked as he peeled a stack of large spuds. “But
I am focused on getting the mission done, which is priority
Whether it is a normal work shift or
holiday, the staff implements a detailed routine of
maintenance and operational procedures. Inspecting
equipment, reviewing threat assessments, tracking weather
forecast, and physical fitness training are just some of the
activities that transpire throughout the shift period.
To remain in peak condition, Capt. Joshua C. Pfeifer, a
fighter pilot assigned to the 123rd Fighter Squadron, takes
the opportunity to workout in the alert facility gym. He
quietly goes through a route of lifting weights, and other
conditioning exercises to maintain strength and flexibility,
a necessary state to operate the supersonic Eagle.
The duty schedule, G-forces and other demanding conditions
can all add up and take their toll over time, Pfeifer
explained. “Staying is shape is critical to what we do when
we're flying these jet.”
Even before 9/11, the need
for sustained readiness for alert aircraft maintained by the
142nd Fighter Wing has an established history on base.
Beginning in October of 1958, the Oregon Air National
Guard, flying the F-89 Scorpion, began provided 14-hour day
shifts, 7 days a week to both supplement the 337th Fighter
Group (AF) stationed at the Portland AFB and to increase the
combat readiness of Air National Guard aircrews. The Air
Force, flying the F-102 Delta Dagger, took the night watch
during this phase. When the 337th inactivated in March 1966,
the sole fighter-interceptors and full-time alert mission at
Portland, Oregon, were transferred to the 142nd, which
continues to the present-day.
“This is definitely way
outside of the ‘one weekend a month, two-weeks a year' that
one hears about ‘The Guard',” said Young.
percent of the 142nd FW members are allocated to full time
status. Supporting the alert mission requires the sacrifice
of support staff on base as Fire Department, Security Forces
and Command Post Airmen also work around-the-clock.
Young reiterated the unique role of this National Guard
assignment, “As most people would not equate the two
together, but it is part of the mission and that's why we
are here on duty today.”
As the requirements of the
mission have increased the facilities have grown with the
workload. The current alert facility opened in March of 1990
after being moved from the long-standing north end of the
ramp to its current residency now at the east end of the
base. This month construction began on a third hangar to
assure the posture of additional aircraft into the future.
Walking around the flight line, Master Sgt. Ronald
Green paused to observe one of the vehicles used to tow
aircraft and commented on the eventual addition of the new
“This will make our jobs easier as we
consolidate more of our resources,” he said.
many of his fellow Airmen, Green will not have his family
around for the holiday meal but noted, “I'll enjoy my time
with my co-workers and we will have plenty of great food.”
Over time, as the Airmen of the 142nd Fighter Wing have
passed down the legacy of safeguarding the Pacific
Northwest, a concept reflected in the shared sacrifice that
comes with defending the nation as a whole.
to summarize his sentiment for the Airmen on duty this
Thanksgiving holiday, Young stressed, “It's not just a job
and a paycheck; it is the opportunity to serve our nation on
a holiday, which reinforces how much we love our country and
everything we have to be thankful for each day.”
By Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. John Hughel
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