report by: Thierry letellier
Proclaimed the United States Air National Guard’s largest air-to-air exercise, Sentry Eagle 2017 took place in late July at Klamath Falls’ Kingsley Field. Hosted by the resident Oregon Air National Guard’s 173rd Fighter Wing (FW), the 16th edition of Sentry Eagle brought together Air National Guard (ANG) units from across the country for the purpose of honing air-to-air skills and combat effectiveness.
Kingsley Field is located four miles southeast of Klamath Falls in south central Oregon’s high desert country. Midway between Portland and San Francisco, the location makes it an important link for west coast military bases. Kingsley Field is named for Second Lieutenant David R. Kingsley; an Oregon World War II hero who was killed in action on June 23, 1944, after a bombing mission over the oil fields at Ploesti, Romania. The first military presence in Klamath Falls began in 1942 when the U.S. Navy opened the Klamath Falls Naval Air Station. Before their departure in 1946 they built many of the hangars and constructed three paved runways
In 1954, the U.S. Air Force selected Klamath Falls as an ideal site for the establishment of an all-weather-fighter-interceptor-squadron and an aircraft control and warning squadron. The squadrons filled the gap in the air defense system between Portland and San Francisco. An official dedication of the facilities on July 3, 1956 changed the name of the base to Kingsley Field.
In 1982, the U.S. Air Force announced a proposal to establish an air defense schoolhouse for F-4 Phantoms under the Air National Guard. Major “Wild Bill” Morris became the squadron commander for the newly formed 8123rd Fighter Interceptor Training Squadron. Captain Bill Cox came down from Portland. Oregon as a full-time instructor pilot to help “Wild Bill” build up the new F-4 schoolhouse. The 8123rd Fighter Interceptor Training Squadron was activated on January 1, 1983, and the first F-4 pilot training class began on February 1, 1983. The school’s initial course offered Operational Training Course and Air Defense to four students, taught by three instructors using two F-4C aircraft. A total of nine students graduated the first year.
Kingsley Field is now home to the 173rd Fighter Wing, activated on June 27, 1996. The 173rd Fighter Wing’s F-15 training mission is aligned under the Air Education and Training Command. When the 173rd Fighter Wing was officially activated, the 114th Fighter Squadron became the flying component of the 173rd Fighter Wing and fell under the Operations Group. F-16 pilot training continued for nine years at Kingsley Field and in 1998 the 173rd Fighter Wing converted to the F-15 Eagle. Today, the 114th Fighter Squadron proudly carries on the tradition of training the best fighter pilots in the world.
During this 2017 Sentry Eagle édition, together with Oregon Air Nation Guard 173rd Fighter Wing, were noted 142nd FW OR ANG from Portland also with F-15C. The last F-15 squadrons came from Fresno : the 144th FW, CA ANG. In addition a squadron from Hill AFB with F-16 and 2 USN Super Hornet squadrons were invited to complete the panel of oponents and extend the types of missions. Two Kc-135 from Fairchild AFB came to assume the refuelling tasks.
My only regret about this experience was to not allow enough time at this place ( i was there only 2 days ) If there is a new edition of Sentry Eagle is held in 2019; i will be there for all the duration of the exercice.