The ADC “A” Awards of Oregon’s 142nd Fighter Group

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

In the years that the 142nd Wing was associated with the Aerospace Defense Command (ADC), the unit twice was awarded with the ADC “A” Award.  This annual award was bestowed on an ADC fighter-interceptor unit which demonstrated “…a record of outstanding achievement leading to higher standards of operational effectiveness, and which has sustained operational effectiveness at an exceptionally high degree.”

“The Air (Aerospace) Defense Commands "A" Award for outstanding achievement leading to increased operational effectiveness was presented to the unit for their demonstration of superior professional skills, job knowledge and dedication to duty which have resulted in achievement of a number of outstanding accomplishments.  This is coupled with the exceptional performance by a unit in overall functional areas of safety programs in the ground, flying and nuclear areas, ratings in General inspections and general training programs.” (Quoted courtesy of

The first time the 142nd received the award was in the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger era (1966 – 1971), in 1970, for the period of July 1, 1968 to August 31, 1969. A record message was sent out from HQ ADC, in the Chidlaw Building adjacent to Ent Air Force Base (AFB), Colorado, date time group 091735Z FEB 70, with instructions to deliver it during normal duty hours, from Lieutenant General Arthur C. Agan, Commander, ADC to Major General Archie M. Burke, Commander, 25th Air Division at McChord AFB, Washington, with info copy to The Adjutant General in Oregon.

General Agan wrote “The 142nd Fighter Group has been selected to receive the Aerospace Defense Command “A” Award. Please extend my congratulations to Colonel Patrick E. O’Grady and the officers and airmen of the 142nd Fighter Group for their outstanding accomplishment. It is a sincere pleasure to have such a unit in this command.”

On March 15, 1970, the ADC “A” Award was presented by Maj Gen Burke to Col O’Grady at Portland Air National Guard Base. The 142nd earned the award competing against other top performing ADC units with identical criteria as units of the regular Air Force.  The group was authorized to display the ADC “A” Award sticker on its F-102 Delta Dagger fighter-interceptors for the next year in recognition of its achievement, which essentially spanned the last year of the F-102 era at Portland.

One of the operational events which showcased to ADC the 142nd Fighter Group’s operational capability in the award period was Operation Cool Ride II, the deployment of the entire group from Portland ANG Base to Elmendorf AFB, Alaska.  See “Cool Ride II” – The Oregon Air National Guard’s Alaska Deployment of 1969,” here.

The ADC “A” Award closely  followed receipt of several other significant awards given within the period which also reflected on the standards of excellence in the 142nd Fighter Group, such as the Winston P. Wilson Trophy for Fiscal Year (FY) 1968 (awarded March, 1969); National Guard Association Most Operationally Ready ADC Unit Plaque for FY 1968 (awarded December, 1968); the USAF Missile Safety Plaque for Calendar Year (CY) 1968 (awarded May, 1969); the National Guard Bureau Flying Safety Certificate for CY 1968 (awarded May, 1969); and the Fourth Air Force Annual Base Munitions Award for CY 1968 (awarded June, 1969).

These successes spurred further recognition in the aftermath of the ADC “A” Award, as the 142nd Fighter Group subsequently received the USAF Outstanding Unit Award for the period January 1, 1968 to December 31, 1969 (awarded December 31, 1970), the Spaatz Trophy for 1970, Air Force Association Outstanding Unit Award for 1970, and the Winston P. Wilson Trophy for 1970. 

The second time the unit received the ADC “A” Award was late in the McDonnell F-101B Voodoo era (1971-1981), for the period from March 1, 1976 to February 28, 1978.  The Certificate of Meritorious Achievement in recognition of outstanding accomplishment in operational effectiveness was signed by the ADC Commander, General James E. Hill.  This certificate was accompanied by the following citation for sustained operational effectiveness which read:

“During this period, the members of the 142nd Fighter Interceptor Group continually displayed superior professional competence and devotion to duty while fulfilling the Group mission of aerospace defense.  The technical skills and operational responsiveness exhibited by all personnel of the 142nd Fighter Interceptor Group have distinguished this unit as an elite component of the Aerospace Defense Command.  The distinctive accomplishments of the 142nd Fighter Interceptor Group reflect credit upon themselves and the Aerospace Defense Command.”

Brigadier General Elwood A. Kees, Jr., Commander of the 25th Air Division at McChord, echoed the laurels in a cover later dated July 8, 1978 in which he wrote “I take great pride in forwarding the attached Aerospace Defense Command “A” Award.  Selection for this award reflects sustained superior performance in all functional areas and, further, is indicative of each member of the 142nd Fighter Interceptor Group.” 

He continued in a second paragraph, “We are fortunate to have a unit of this stature providing a pivotal role in the mission success of this Air Division and the Aerospace Defense Command.  Again, congratulations for a well deserved honor and best wishes for continued success.”

During the award period, the 142nd achieved outstanding success at the William Tell 1976 Worldwide Weapons Meet held at Tyndall AFB, Florida, the big air-to-air weapons employment competition between top ADC fighter-interceptor and other top tactical fighter units in the regular Air Force.  There the group won first place in the F-101 category, along with the “Top Gun” aircrew award for Oregon’s 123rd Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (Redhawks) Major Brad Newell (pilot) and Don Tonole (Weapons System Officer). 

That was the last opportunity for the 142nd to garner the ADC “A” Award.  Not long afterward, on October 1, 1979, units under ADC were transferred to Air Defense, Tactical Air Command (ADTAC), a new component of the Tactical Air Command (TAC) - ADC was inactivated as a Major Command on March 31, 1980.  The ADC “A” Award program did not make the transfer, apparently, though in time, a new award would be created.  

Some years later in 1985, aerospace defense forces resubordinated from ADTAC to TAC’s First Air Force.  In 1992, First Air Force and the aerospace defense forces transferred from TAC to the new Air Combat Command (ACC), which took over the strategic air defense mission.  It would be another 18 years before a new award emerged to recognize top-performing aerospace defense units defending the homeland.

In 2010, the Continental United States (CONUS) North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) Region (CONR) - First Air Force Aerospace Sovereignty Alert (ASA) Unit of the Year Award appeared.  It was awarded to the 162nd Fighter Wing for its performance in 2009. This award appears to have similar criteria for unit outstanding achievement and sustained operational effectiveness previously recognized by the ADC “A” Award. 

In 2012 the ASA Unit of the Year Award was redesignated as the Aerospace Control Alert (ACA) Unit of the Year Award. The 142nd Fighter Wing received that award for its outstanding operational performance in 2013. 

Success has again followed success here in the Pacific Northwest. The 142nd Fighter Wing was recognized again as the ACA Unit of the Year in 2016 and 2018 (the only dual award in the history of this award, with the 177th Fighter Wing).  And earlier this month, the 142nd Wing was announced as the ACA Unit of the Year for 2022.  This award is not given lightly.  In each case the Citizen Airmen of the 142nd earned it through sustained superior performance in accomplishment of the mission.  

With any luck and good old-fashioned day-to-day hard work in the assigned mission, the 142nd Wing will garner this prestigious award yet again.  Perhaps that will be as a first in the much-anticipated, new Boeing F-15EX Eagle II-era which will dawn soon here in the Pacific Northwest, currently planned for 2024.

Special thanks to Mr. Casey Connell, the CONUS NORAD Region (CONR) - First Air Force (AFNORTH and AFSPACE) Historian, for his assistance in the modern era award portion of this article.