Air Education and Training in the 1960s

  • Published
  • By Lt Col Terrence G. Popravak, Jr., USAF (Retired)
  • 142nd Wing / History Office

The 1960’s saw significant growth in the education and training of Oregon’s Airmen.  In a way it was fitting, as from its earliest years, Portland Air National Guard Base provided education and training for growing air forces capabilities. 

For example, during World War II, Portland Army Air Base conducted its own basic military training for personnel newly inducted into military service.  And during the war, fliers at Portland trained in fighter-type aircraft such as the Bell P-39 Airacobra, Bell P-63 Kingcobra and lastly, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning.  For more on this fighter training mission, see the article “Pacific Northwest Lightning: Portland’s P-38 Lightning Flying Training Program of 1944 – 1945,” here.

In the late 1950s, the Oregon ANG (OreANG) established a Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) School to season and sustain the professionals of the NCO corps.  It was run by base education officer Warrant Officer (WO) Clarence “Slim” Rylander, a World War II Army infantry veteran of the 1st Armored Division in Europe.  WO Rylander played a vital role in education and training activities in the unit in the 1960s.

Known informally as “Rylander U,” as the NCO School continued on into the early 1960s, it aimed to sharpen the unit’s NCOs with instruction in seven subject areas during a 16-week course of instruction: 1. Leadership and management; 2. Career program; 3. Drill and ceremonies; 4. ANG mission and organization; 5. Techniques of instruction; 6. Customs, courtesies, wearing of the uniform, and awards; 7. Communism and world affairs.

In the middle of 1961, Oregon’s professional military education (PME) expanded with the establishment of an NCO Preparatory School for NCO promotion-eligible airmen to ready them for NCO leadership responsibilities.  The first class graduated 13 Airmen in June 1961 and continued for some years.

A big flying training mission came to Portland in 1962 with establishment of the Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) School.  As active duty forces moved on from the F-89 Scorpion, closing the F-89 RIO School at James Connally AFB in Texas in 1960, nine ANG units still operated the F-89J variant of the aircraft.  Portland was selected to train navigators for RIO duty for Oregon, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Maine and Vermont.

Brigadier General Gordon L. Doolittle, OreANG Chief of Staff and Base Detachment Commander, served as the Commandant of the School with WO Rylander in charge of the academics and WO John J. Leaptrott providing administrative support.  A cadre of 12 USAF active duty officers was assigned to Portland to provide classroom and flight instruction.  The first RIO class began in October 1962 and graduated eight RIOs in January 1963.

The OreANG also built a flight simulator for the RIO school, which was a partial mockup of an F-89J cockpit.  TSgt Floyd Clodfelter and his team, including TSgt Gary Glass, SSgt Charles Stocking, A1C Mike Duckworth and A2C David Bjork assembled, operated and maintained the simulator.  The men were familiar with F-89J avionics, radar, radio navigation as well as flight characteristics of the aircraft.  With the simulator, RIO school students could simulate air intercepts, emergency procedures and navigational proficiency.  It was a sophisticated enough simulator to be able to program magnetic variations into the compass for a given area. 

The RIO school ran three “segments” per year, of 15-weeks duration, for a maximum of eight students per class., as well as additional F-89J aircraft, added to Portland’s activity.  Additional F-89J’s were assigned to Portland for a total of 32 on the ramp to accomplish the RIO training and to ensure no adverse impact on Portland’s existing air defense mission.  An additional T-33 jet trainer was also assigned making four of this type available for operations.

Since those days the Oregon ANG continues education and training activities.  There are various PME schools which officers, NCOs and Airmen attend, though these are now held at other bases in the US as the ANG placed more emphasis on these schools.  For example, OreANG NCO’s attend the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center at McGee Tyson ANG Base which began an ANG NCO Academy in 1968.

And in the flying realm, in 1983 the OreANG began a schoolhouse at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Oregon, for ANG McDonnell Douglas F-4 C/D Phantom aircrews in units assigned the strategic air defense mission in the twilight years of the Cold War.  This school was initially assigned to the 142nd Fighter Group.  A flight surgeon course, “Top Knife,” was also added to the school’s offering.  This air defense-focused school transitioned to the General Dynamics F-16 Air Defense Fighter in 1988, and then to the McDonnell Douglas/Boeing F-15 Eagle in 1998 by which time Oregon’s 173rd Fighter Wing had been established to take on the training mission from Portland.  These days the 173rd FW trains all ANG and active duty F-15C pilots. 

So, the roots run deep for education and training in the Oregon ANG, some of which were showcased in the 1960s.  It’s an important investment in the men and women who serve community, state and nation and which yields a powerful dividend in the capabilities of the Air National Guard.