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Oregon Air National Guard Recruiting: 1973 through 1977

SMSgt Gene Thomas (right), OreANG Recruiter, speaks with an unidentified airman at the OreANG Recruiting stand at the State Fair in Salem, Oregon, in the summer of 1974.

SMSgt Gene Thomas (right), OreANG Recruiter, speaks with an unidentified airman at the OreANG Recruiting stand at the State Fair in Salem, Oregon, in the summer of 1974.

SMSgt Gene Thomas (right), OreANG Recruiter, speaks with an unidentified airman at the OreANG Recruiting stand at the State Fair in Salem, Oregon, in the summer of 1974.

SMSgt Gene Thomas (right), OreANG Recruiter, speaks with an unidentified airman at the OreANG Recruiting stand at the State Fair in Salem, Oregon, in the summer of 1974.

PORTLAND AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ore -- The Vietnam conflict was winding down in 1973, so the "all volunteer force" became a new challenge for the armed forces, including the Air National Guard. Up until then, the Oregon Air National Guard remained near the 100 percent manning goal because of the selective service draft.

Maj. Gen. I.G. Brown, Air National Guard director at that time, became concerned in the summer of 1973 in regards to a recruiting slowdown nationwide. A steady decrease in recruiting since January of that year created an overall manning shortage for the Air National Guard. Gen. Brown called on commanders to immediately increase their personal efforts in recruiting.

The Oregon Air Guard was deficient by 509 personnel. Maj. Gen. Gordon Doolittle, Oregon Air National Guard commander, hired two new recruiters in July and August to resolve the manning problems. Attrition was also at an astounding 15 to 20 personnel each month.

There were 1,600 enlistments from 1973 to 1977 in the Oregon Air Guard. Each month The 142nd Fighter Interceptor Group highlighted enlistees each month in the Air Scoop newsletter.

The continuing "Palace Chase" program" was also helpful. It allowed active-duty Airmen to enlist in an Air National Guard unit by doubling the remainder of a current enlistment contract. Another helpful program was the "Try One Program," which allowed prior service Airman to enlist for one year.

Newspaper and television advertisements and state and county fairs were additional resources; however, the most successful method proved to be referrals from within the Oregon Guard units to family members, friends, neighbors, etc. All units on Portland Air Base helped every day; the recruiters got the credit, but each unit member's effort solved the recruiting and retention problems of that time.

There were many recruiting success stories, such as some of the enlisted members later receiving their commission - several were even selected for pilot training. One example is that of Airman Third Class George Smeraglio, who joined the Oregon Air Guard in the mid-1970s. He later received a commission, went through pilot training and retired in 2012 as the 142nd Logistics Readiness Squadron commander. He completed his career as a full Colonel with command pilot wings and 2,500 flight hours.

A number of those recruitees from the 70s made it to the rank of Chief Master Sergeant, and some were chosen as Oregon Air Guard Senior Enlisted Advisors. Several enlistees married other Guardsman, and many of these guard families had sons and daughters who later joined the Oregon Air National Guard.

Recruiting in the 1973-1977 time period did have a lasting effect on the present 142nd Fighter Wing. Many of our current leaders today were enlisted by one of Gen. DooLittle's recruiters.