National Guard Vice Chief Visits Oregon

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. John Hughel
  • 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
With a brief two-day visit to the Pacific Northwest, Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, Vice Chief of the National Guard Bureau, toured the Portland Air National Guard Base and attended a workshop for the Oregon State Partnership Program here in Portland, Ore.

Gen. Lengyel took time to meet with the Airmen who call Oregon home, while receiving briefings on mission readiness from Oregon Air Guard leadership and later spoke before the Vietnam delegation in attendance for the Oregon State Partnership workshop, April 14-19.

"I can tell you that my father is a veteran of the Vietnam War, and this new partnership with Vietnam holds a special place for me," said Gen. Lengyel.

Following his speech, Gen. Lengyel presented a book of Americana imagery as a gift to Lt. Gen. Tran Quang Khue, Deputy Chief of Staff for the Vietnam People's Army, who headed the delegation of 14 high-ranking Vietnamese military officials to Oregon.

The State Partnership Program with Vietnam allows both countries to pursue shared priorities such as disaster assistance, trade, education, training, health and environmental protection.

Col. Rick Wedan, 142nd Fighter Wing commander, escorted Lengyel around the Portland Air National Guard Base to view the diversity of units operating on station. During the tour, he met with several Airmen who have recently returned from deployments and operations in Afghanistan, and Airmen who support the full-time alert mission.

According to Wedan, the training that our team has put into place has been tested and has led to several high-visibility intercepts in just the past three years.

The 142nd Fighter Wing is one of 13 aerospace control alert units in the United States. These elite units maintain fully-armed jets that are always prepared to respond for national security threats.

In January the 142nd Fighter Wing secured a new 50-year lease with the Port of Portland and the State of Oregon to safeguard the stability and long-range mission for the Oregon Air Guard.

A renewed emphasis on training and using the unique size and airspace of Oregon was also briefed to Gen. Lengyel, as Oregon Air National Guard Commander Air Force Brig. Gen. Steven Gregg, highlighted the ongoing training that both the 142nd and 173rd Fighter Wings in Oregon carry out daily.

"Flying off the Oregon coast, we can do most of our training but we are looking at ways to expand our airspace so that the [173rd Fighter Wing] mission at Kinsley Field can grow as well," Gen. Gregg said.

The 173rd Fighter Wing's mission is training F-15 pilots for air-to-air combat.

Gen. Lengyel was briefed on how the Oregon Air National Guard can adapt to changes in future training mission requirements, as well as developing long-range plans to host new missions from the Portland region.

The 50-year lease extension in Portland will allow the base to grow along with its missions.

Maj. Brian Kroeller, an Intelligence Officer with the 142nd Fighter Wing, briefed Gen. Lengyel on a possible joint military training site, as a way to recapitalize building space that was once used by previous Air Force Reserve units in Oregon. The Air Force, as well as the Navy and other reserve units, would be able to utilize the facilities here at Portland, Kroeller said.

During the final part of the tour, Gen. Lengyel received a hands-on demonstration from Airmen of the 125th Special Tactics Squadron. He reviewed small vehicles that can be delivered airborne, a variety of communication equipment and other tools of the trade combat controllers use in the field.

According to Col. Michael Bieniewicz, Combat Operations Group Commander, the geography of the Pacific Northwest offers a wide-range of surroundings and special challenges, which allows 125th STS members the conditions needed for their demanding training and high levels of readiness.

"Just as our guys were coming back from operations overseas, they were quickly repacking to fly out and support Hurricane Sandy efforts," Col. Bieniewicz said.

To the laughter of many, Gen. Gregg pointed out to Gen. Lengyel the toughness of his combat controllers. "Some men fly machines, but some men are machines," he said.

Col. Wedan highlighted the variety of units and missions that the Oregon Air Guard performs daily and the growth potential at the Portland Air National Guard Base.

"I feel confident that the 142nd is grounded firmly here in the Pacific Northwest for another two generations. This, due to our mission, our location, our population, and our new 50-year lease with the Port of Portland," he said at the conclusion of the tour.

During his speech to the Vietnam delegation, Gen. Lengyel referenced how Oregon has always been one of his favorite places to visit and explore.

"Not only is this a unique place, but the units and missions here are just as unique," he said.