Portland Air National Guard Base activates new alert facility
By Tech. Sgt. John Hughel, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 17, 2015
PORTLAND AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ore. -- Marking 25 years after the construction of the main alert facilities housed here, an additional alert barn was officially opened during a ribbon cutting ceremony July 10, 2015.
While highlighting the projects development, 142nd Fighter Wing Commander Col. Paul T. Fitzgerald said the new $ 1.8 million facility was worth the wait.
"We've done plenty of repair projects in the last few years [on base], but this facility is the first standalone military construction project to be completed since the new 50-year lease was signed in January 2013 with the Port of Portland," he said.
The new alert barn is equipped with 400Hz power, with the latest foam discharge system and features the "Redhawk red" roof color scheme standardized as part of the base installation master plan by previous wing commander Rick Wedan, who was also in attendance for the ceremony.
The facility addition marks the continued evolution and importance of the air base in providing the Aerospace Control Alert mission in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States.
Beginning in 1958 as part of North America Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the Air National Guard and the active duty Air Force began operating in a split shift relationship. The 142nd Fighter Wing (recognized then as the 142nd Fighter Group) flew the 14-hour day time operations with the 337th Fighter Group providing night watch over the region. With the departure of the active duty force in early 1966, the 142nd became the sole provider of the 24/7 alert mission.
Describing the continued importance of the mission, Fitzgerald outlined the Department of Defense's emphasis on homeland protection and building global security.
"The alert mission is our cornerstone mission," he said. "We are geographically suited to defend from Canada to California."
The Air National Guard operates the majority of fighter jet alert sites in the continental United States, Alaska and Hawaii. The new alert structure will help enhance the capabilities of the mission by providing a state-of-the-art building to maintain and prepare the unit's F-15 Eagles when they're needed at a moment's notice.
"We fly the world's greatest air dominance platform. Our F-15's, equipped with electronically scanned array radar, can detect, track and engage multiple targets," Fitzgerald said, but emphasized that "the most import site is here [in Portland]."
Oregon Adjutant General, Army Maj. Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, also spoke during the ribbon-cutting ceremony and echoed Fitzgerald's comments with regards to the strategic importance of the new facility.
"With this new building, the ability of the maintainers, avionics, flight crews and others will insure that there is never a gap in the coverage provided to the United States," he said.
Hokanson experienced how well the current facility and alert team worked in concert together as he was present during a recent tasking of alert jets by NORAD while at the Portland Air National Guard base.
"I had the opportunity to come out here and see some tired yet smiling faces of people who couldn't be happier doing their job," he said. "Personally it was one of the best moments I've had, just to be part of this organization and seeing their professionalism."
With more than 600 alert events in the past 10 years, the new alert barn will continue to add value to the overall mission tempo. By improved security proximity and keeping all alert aircraft co-located in one area of the base, maintainers, pilots and aircraft will be able to insure readiness efficiency.
"So, it all comes down to two things: speed and span of control. In this game, seconds count, but we have to remind ourselves that this is no ordinary game," Fitzgerald said. "It is a no-fail mission that requires 24/7 dedication by everyone involved."