Saturday Sept. 7, the Oregon Air National Guard (“ANG”) opened its base, adjacent to the Portland International Airport, to friends and family as a thank you for supporting the work that keeps the troops away from home two weekends a month.
As crowds mingled, ate, and herded children through bouncy houses and game booths, generations stood in lines to climb through two fighter jets that the 142nd Airborne Fighter Wing relocated for the event.
The Oregon National Guard has its feet in history; it was initially established in 1843 in the context of a territorial dispute between indigenous Indians, the Hudson’s Bay Company, and white settlers hoping to gain citizenship in the expanding American nation.
The modern Air National Guard was born prior to WWII as the American nation began to prepare for possible military involvement in the Pacific and European theaters. Observation posts were set up along the Pacific coast and aircraft began to patrol the waters and skies for enemy craft.
With a modern mandate, Oregon’s National Guard is considered a militia and is charged with homeland defense, taking direction from the residing state’s Governor. In the event of the declaration of martial law, however, the modern National Guard can be federalized and called into “active state service,” a point at which the Guard would take direction from the arm of service for which they are reserves. Troops from the 142nd Airborne Fighter Wing would operate under direction from Air Force command.
Fighter jets stationed at the Oregon ANG base are responsible for patrolling the skies from Alaska to northern California and east into Wyoming. If need calls, they expand their territory to provide support as needed. Sara Perkins, Lt. Col. at the base and a sister of the author, reports that when scrambled, the jets can make what is a 75-mile car trip to the Oregon Coast in six minutes.
In addition to patrolling the skies and the west coast, the ANG has numerous other responsibilities. According to Lt. Col. Perkins, the 142nd Medical Group prepares to triage and treat in the event of localized, catastrophic health emergencies; firefighters are prepared to provide backup for national forest fire events; and the Oregon Air National Guard has provided staffing and support for various humanitarian efforts. At the end of September a contingent will travel to Viet Nam to provide health education support.