By Tech. Sgt. John Hughel
142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
PORTLAND, Ore. (1/19/13) – After more than 15 years of negotiations between the Port of Portland and the Oregon National Guard, a ceremonial signing of a 50-year lease will allow the Oregon Air National Guard's 142nd Fighter Wing to continue to operate from the Portland International Airport in Portland, Ore., officials said.
The signing ceremony, held Wednesday at the Portland Air National Guard Base, was a "historic and momentous event," according to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who joined leadership from the Port and the Oregon National Guard.
The ceremony was held inside the Rosenbaum Hangar at the base, with one of the Fighter Wing's F-15 Eagles and a large American flag serving as the backdrop. The event site was symbolic as it will be part of the property turned over to the Port in the near future.
"Today we celebrate a 50-year commitment going forward between the Port of Portland and our nation's military," Wyden said. "We have now secured this facility to protect this country and Oregon for the next half century and that is why this ceremony today is so special."
The process to land this historic agreement involved years of proposals by both sides and careful negotiations, Port officials said.
The Oregon National Guard has been leasing land from the Port of Portland since 1949, and has operated out of Portland for more than 70 years.
With Wyden's support in Congress, the new lease will allow the 142nd Fighter Wing to continue their mission of Aerospace Control Alert, which maintains security over the Pacific Northwest.
"This agreement also paves the way for future growth and other missions here, as well as being creative and to look at new environmental innovations," Wyden said.
The Portland Air National Guard Base employs nearly 1,500 military and civilian personnel, with an annual payroll of $44 million.
Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, Oregon's adjutant general, who introduced Wyden, also expressed his appreciation for the Airmen who work at the Portland Air Base.
"To the Airmen here today, this ceremonial event is for you and your future," Rees said. "You come to work here every day no matter what the job, and contribute to the security of our nation and state."
As part of the lease agreement, the Oregon Air National Guard will reduce its existing 240 acres of land to 195 acres over the next 20 years. If the Port of Portland chooses to expand, or add a third runway, the size of the base would further reduce to 128 acres, but no changes would take place until 2043.
"This lease was absolutely vital to the future of 142nd Fighter Wing and the Oregon Air National Guard," Rees added.
Under the joint agreement, the military will pay $368,000 annually for use of taxiways and runways, and $60,000 annually toward the operation and maintenance of the Port of Portland's deicing storm water runoff collection system.
While addressing those at the ceremony, Port of Portland Executive Director Bill Wyatt asked Rees if the F-15 parked in the hangar behind the speaker's podium would be included with the agreement.
"It would be great to have one of these airplanes," he said, amid laughter from the audience.
The spirit of cooperation was instrumental in bringing the final lease agreement to the signing ceremony, planners said.
"This is a great day for the Port of Portland, a great day for the Air National Guard and a great day for our nation," Wyatt said.
Attending the ceremony via video teleconference was Kathleen Ferguson, the U.S. Air Force deputy assistant of installations, at the Pentagon. She has been instrumental in helping to craft the new lease.
"I first would like to thank the service members of the 142nd Fighter Wing for their service to our nation and to those serving before you," she said. "The signing of the lease today represents a true partnership through cooperation, perseverance and teamwork between those who have been working over the past 15 years," Ferguson said.
Nearly 1,100 personnel are headquartered at the Portland Air National Guard Base. The 142nd Fighter Wing patrols the airspace from the Canadian border to central California as part of its Aerospace Control Alert mission. Since September 11, 2001, the 142nd Fighter Wing has flown more than 37,000 hours to ensure the Pacific Northwestern skies remain safe.