By CMSgt Gene Thomas (ret), 142nd Fighter Wing History Department
/ Published August 19, 2014
PORTLAND AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ore. -- The Oregon Air National Guard (OreANG) deployed many times outside the State of Oregon in the 1950's as an entire Group. The 1969 Alaska deployment was an entire Group and the first out of state, more than 1200 air miles away. It also was the last OreANG Fighter Group major deployment.
Forty five years ago, on January 9, 1969, the National Guard Bureau (NGB) notified the 142nd Fighter Group (FG) that there was a scheduled deployment for them to Elmendorf AFB Alaska, called "Cool Ride II", Aug. 2-16, 1969. This would be the 142nd FG's first deployment in 11 years, and it turned out the last out-of-area deployment for the entire group.
Then the NGB coordinated a pre-deployment visit for OreANG deployment planners with the 163rd FG, California Air National Guard. They were the ANG unit involved in "Cool Ride I" of 1968.
Following that pre-deployment visit, the Alaska Air Defense Command invited the OreANG to Elmendorf AFB for the final pre-planning session that proved instrumental in executing all phases of "Cool Ride II."
After returning to Oregon, the 142nd FG produced an "Operation Plan" that turned out very successful and received compliments in the post-deployment summary.
The Alaska deployment's flying and maintenance portions were at Elmendorf AFB, but housing was at Camp Carroll five and a half miles away.
This was not a simple deployment, as compared to those in the past to Boise, Idaho, which was a "one hop stop." It was complex, and the 142nd FG had to order 10, four-engine Lockheed C-124 transport aircraft to move over 800 personnel and associated cargo, then fly 17 fighter aircraft with no in-flight refueling capability for 1200 air miles.
Two remote air bases were made available on their journey to Elmendorf AFB. One base in Alberta, Canada, called Namao and the other in the Yukon Territory, called Whitehorse. The Operation Plan provided ground maintenance personnel at those locations to recover, service, fix as required and launch the aircraft. At Whitehorse, most of the town turned out to see all the F-102's passing through. In addition to the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger fighter-interceptors there were three OreANG support aircraft, two Lockheed T-33 trainers and one Douglas C-54 Transport.
Only three of the 30 some pilots assigned were full-time with the OreANG, all the rest were either dentists, doctors, accountants, lawyers or airline pilots in their civilian lives, a unique factor in all ANG units.
With all of the aircraft and personnel of the 142nd FG now in place at Elmendorf AFB, challenges did arise, transportation was the largest, as all the personnel were housed at Camp Carroll, but worked at Elmendorf. There were two dining halls, one at Camp Carroll and one at Elmendorf AFB, but here again transportation was essential to getting the mission done.
As for the overall success of the deployment, the flying program was excellent, with 234 sorties (381.2 hours) and an operational rate of 97.2 %. The 123rd Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (FIS) participated in an Air Defense Command exercise, completing 22 intercepts and 12 target sorties. So we were not just visitors, we worked side-by-side with our ADC partners.
On the maintenance side of the house, the parachute shop repacked 479 drag chutes at Elmendorf AFB, plus many USAF F-4 Phantom II fighter drag chutes while helping the USAF personnel stationed at Elmendorf.
The 142nd Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (142d CAM Sq) Material Control Section, which "controlled all aircraft Maintenance supply parts", issued 178 parts that they brought with them, and only requested eight parts from Elmendorf Base Supply. So it was no impact on Elmendorf AFB Supply. Later we paid back the eight items.
On the fun side, the 142nd Consolidated Aircraft maintenance Squadron (CAMS) held their 1969 NCO Dining-In at the nearby Fort Richardson NCO Club on Aug. 12, 1969. NCO attendance was 94%. Guest Speaker was Mr. Robert Reeve, famous bush pilot, pioneer and president of Reeve's Airlines, he had one of the first aircraft and power plant licenses, and one of the first Alaska flying licenses. He was author of "Glacier Pilot."
Still on the fun side, the middle weekend was a non-flying period and many took advantage of some fishing trips the USAF had available. Each person could bring back 30 lbs of fish, and they froze it for us for the long trip home.
Camp Carroll, where the 142nd FG stayed was a WWII facility made up mostly of Quonset Huts. Environmental hazards of the old camp included the numerous moose near our huts, and their many droppings.
In recognition of the 142nd's Alaskan service, the Governor of Alaska, Keith H. Miller, presented the unit with a small token of his appreciation. He gave several hundred lapel pins depicting a walrus, an iconic marine mammal of Alaskan waters, along with a certificate of authenticity bearing his signature.
This Alaska deployment was successful and did prove that thorough pre-planning was the most valuable player. It showed that sustained mobility procedures had to be established for the possibility of on-going deployments.
Many personnel, aircraft and units under today's 142nd Fighter Wing have deployed overseas numerous times from the 1980's to present times, echoing in part the OreANG's Alaska deployment of 1969, though not again yet as an entire wing. But there is no doubt that based on all this valuable experience the Redhawks can deploy, and remain ready to answer such a call to duty.