PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Colonel Duke Pirak calls the 142nd Fighter Wing “Oregon’s Air Force,” because most of the personnel that work on it — and its 22 F-15 fighters — are from Oregon and Southwest Washington. 

The fleet, stationed at the Portland Air National Guard Base, is a critical cog in the United States’ homeland security. It’s a major part of where we live. 

“We are every bit as ready as a National Guard Unit to defend America at home and abroad as an active duty unit,” Pirak said, “and I’m darn proud of that.”

Oregon’s 142nd Airborne fleet helps out around the world and all around the United States. Colonel Duke Pirak leads it. (KOIN)

Pirak said the group, one of 2 places in Oregon home to F-15 fighters, is always ready, just in case.

“There are always two airplanes ready to go, fully armed-and-ready to defend the United States,” he said.

That was tested on a recent 4th of July when a Russian bomber approached Oregon. The 142nd scrambled. 

“We see you, you see us,” Pirak said. “Have a good day, and please don’t stay.”

The 142nd assists NATO all over the world while alsop assisting in natural diaster relief across the country. Their 125th special tactics squadron was in Texas and Florida during this past hurricane season, providing supplies, engineering, assisting in recoveries and giving medical help. 

Airbase historian Terrence Poprovak said the fleet’s legacy can be traced back to World War II. In 1941, the founding father of the Oregon Air National Guard, Jantzen Company executive and army reserve pilot, G. Robert Dodson, established Oregon’s first aviation unit — the 123rd Observation Squadron. The airbase was established that year. Dodson then went to war. 

“After the war he returned to Oregon to command the 142nd fighter group,” Poprovak said. 

The 142nd was established in 1946. It’s still essential today, 72 years later.

“It would be safe to assume that any major military response to having to protect the United States, the 142nd fighter wing will be at the forefront of that,” Pirak said.