Oregon Combat Operations Group realigns under fighter wings
By Tech. Sgt. John Hughel, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 26, 2015
PORTLAND AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ore. -- Over the past 13 years, four separate Oregon Air National Guard units have comprised the Combat Operations Group (COG), distinct in their individual responsibilities, yet linked by their common combat communications mission.
As the new fiscal year began Oct. 1, three Oregon COG units -- the 116th Air Control Squadron (ACS), 125th Special Tactics Squadron (STS) and the 123rd Weather Flight (WF) -- were realigned under the 142nd Fighter Wing Operations Group. The 270th Air Traffic Control Squadron (ATCS) was assigned to the 173rd Fighter Wing Operations Group, Kingsley Field, Oregon.
The 123rd Weather Flight Change of Command ceremony held here Sept. 13 symbolized one of the last official formalities of the Combat Operations Group, as COG Commander Col. Mark Crosby presided over the event and remarked on the accomplishments and alterations ahead for the four units.
"It has been my distinct honor to command this group and as these changes can be problematic, I know the Airmen of the Combat Operations Group will meet and exceed every challenge," said Crosby.
After introducing new 123rd WF Commander Maj. Joseph Lantai, Crosby highlighted the career of retiring Lt. Col. Matt Doggett during his tenure as the WF commander.
"During nearly 10 years as the unit commander, [Lt. Col. Doggett] Matt has deployed or been part of many significant moments in the COG's history," Crosby said.
He then listed several missions, including hurricane relief following Katrina and Rita in 2005, missions supporting the overseas contingency operations, as well as direct support by the 123rd during Operation Unified Response, which assisted with relief efforts following the Jan. 12, 2011 earthquake in Haiti.
Inheriting the legacy and triumphs of the COG will now rest with Col. Adam Sitler, 142nd Fighter Wing Operations Group Commander, as the three units move under the Wing's command.
"The challenges are administrative but really this is an opportunity to broaden our mission as we understand the battle rhythm of these well-established organizations," said Sitler.
Prior to the realignment under their respective fighter wing, the four COG units had a series of support agreements in place that allowed them to receive services and mission support. These agreements are no longer, which streamlines efficiencies to help save time and resources.
As three of the COG units become part of the 142nd Operations Group, Sitler said there was a sense of anticipation about adding nearly 280 new members. "I am by nature a consensus builder and educator so embracing change and building on our well established mission set is exciting," he said.
With a broadened capability portfolio, the Operations Group may have some degree of learning curve issues, but Sitler said that if he is doing his job right, no members below the command level will be able to tell the difference.
"These are three high performing units and we should be able to parachute into this high-speed train and keep going," he said.
Having key personnel in place also helps reinforce the union. Sitler pointed out that several important noncommissioned officers (NCOs) from the COG would be instrumental in helping leadership grow.
"Both Master Sergeants Ashley Kennedy and Rebecca Burt, along with newly-promoted Chief Master Sgt. [Brent] Cavanias, are key NCOs that are well established leaders and have a good understanding of issues that affect Airmen and operation readiness," said Sitler. "We're always on mission."
As Chief Cavanias transitions as the new Superintendent of the Operations Group, the previous Senior NCO of the COG, Chief Master Sgt. Chris Roper, has become the new 142nd Fighter Wing Command Chief.
Roper described his role as the Senior Enlisted Advisor for two of the geographically separated COG units during his tenure. "It was a real eye-opener for me to see how similar yet at the same time, how different the 270th [Air Traffic Control Squadron] and the 116th [Air Control Squadron] mission sets are."
The 270 ATCS is located at Kingsley Field, Klamath Falls, Oregon and the 116 ACS is located at Camp Rilea, Warrenton, Oregon. The 123WF and 125 STS are located here at the Portland Air Base.
Roper said he feels that he can help facilitate the transfer of the 'COG North units' into the Fighter Wing and echoed Sitler's sentiments about the other COG leaders.
"What a huge bonus for us to have Chief Cavanias as he was a member of the 125 STS for many years; through deployments and other state missions, he knows what their squadron can bring to the table," said Roper.
Roper said he also hopes to help current 142nd Fighter Wing Commander Paul Fitzgerald recognize some of the ranges of mission sets that Airmen from the COG will add to the Wing's expanded capabilities.
"This has been a really smooth transition and all of the units are highly functioning organizations. Just look at the recently announced Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards," said Roper.
It was recently announced by the Air National Guard that, along with the 142nd Fighter Wing, the three former COG units --the 125 STS, 123 WF and 116th ACS -- all were recipients of the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for 2014. Along with the 270 ATCS and 173 FW, these Oregon units made up six of only 53 total Air Force units to be selected for this distinction.
"These are all positive changes; in the number of new people, heightened mission sets and a really good group of professionals in place going forward," Roper said.