Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Eagles migrate to Idaho pending Kingsley Field runway reconstruction project

Above: An F-15 Eagle from the 173rd Fighter Wing takes off from Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Ore. The runway at Kingsley Field is undergoing major reconstruction, prompting the move of the wing’s flight operations to Gowen Field in Boise, Idaho. The project is scheduled to be completed in November 2009.

For the first time in many years, there will be no aircraft flying in or out of Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Ore.

The total removal and reconstruction of the old runway has forced the 173rd Fighter Wing to move its flight operations to the 124th Wing at Gowen Field, Idaho during the last week of April.

According to Derek Martin, Klamath Falls Airport Director, the contractor began work on April 1.

In the second week of March, the project was running on schedule and is currently waiting on the Federal Aviation Administration to release the necessary funds to begin actual construction. Martin estimates the project will be completed this October.

“We’re deploying all of our jets and about 225 people during the last week in April,” said Maj. Gregory “Snap” Johnson, 173rd Operations Support Officer and deployment project officer for Sentry Displacement.

Johnson said there were a variety of reasons for choosing Gowen Field, located near Boise, including cost and the ability to accommodate the 22 Kingsley Field F-15 Eagle aircraft.

“We selected the location based upon three criteria: mission, money and people,” said Johnson. “Ultimately, Boise was the best at satisfying all three.”

“Without the support from the 124th Wing we wouldn’t be able to accomplish our mission,” said Col. Jim Miller, 173rd Fighter Wing Commander. “We are grateful to them for accepting us. The guard is a wonderful network of support in times like this and during state or national emergencies.”

The logistics involved in relocating the unit make it a highly unusual deployment.

“The number one challenge is simply the magnitude of it all. We never deploy this many for this long, to accomplish our primary mission,” Johnson said.

That mission is to train the best air-to-air combat pilots to fly one of the most sophisticated air defense aircraft in the world.

“What many don’t realize is that for all of that metal in the air, there is an entire support structure that enables it; maintenance equipment, computers, vehicles, emergency landing cables, runway sweepers-all-in-all nearly 50 trucks worth of equipment, not to mention all the people, have to be transported to Gowen Field,” he added.

During the deployment most non-flying support functions, such as the military personnel flight and the finance office, will continue to operate normally. The Idaho deployment is planned to run through the end of November 2009, but Johnson says he expects to finish the deployment before then.

“Thankfully there are a lot of people here with years of expertise in their primary duties as well as in peripheral areas,” said Johnson. “Their job skills and knowledge are directly responsible for getting this accomplished, for taking processes that normally take six months to a year, and truncating them to two or three months.”

The 173rd Fighter Wing is the Oregon Air National Guard's second fighter wing in the state, and is one of two U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagle pilot training schoolhouses in the nation.

Kingsley Field is located in the town of Klamath Falls. The town in located in southern Oregon and is home to just over 21,000 people.

Posted by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Social Media Manager, Oregon Military Department

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