|Oregon Air Guard sees change of command for premier air combat control unit
The former commander of the Oregon Air National Guard's 116th Air Control Squadron, headquartered at Camp Rilea in Warrenton, Ore., assumed command of the Combat Operations Group, during a ceremony at the Anderson Readiness Center in Salem, Ore., March 2, 2008.
Lt. Col. Robert J. Gregory III served in various positions within the 116th ACS before receiving his commission in 1989, and eventually taking command of the unit in 2007.
He replaces Lt. Col. Ronald G. Kessinger, who will assume the role of Air National Guard Chief of Staff at Joint Forces Headquarters in Salem, Ore., a position previously held by Col. Bruce Prunk. Kessinger, a resident of Newberg, Ore., has been a member of the Oregon Air National Guard since 1986.
Gregory, who graduated from Forest Grove High School, assumes command of the COG at a pivotal time in the unit's history, including the conversion of the 244th Combat Communications Squadron, the creation, and recent federal recognition of the 125th Special Tactics Squadron, and the draw-down of the 272nd Combat Communications Squadron.
Brig. Gen. Daniel B. O'Hollaren, Commander of the Oregon Air National Guard, praised the command changes, saying the appointment of Gregory is a natural progression for the unit.
"(Col.) Kessinger made this unit robust," O'Hollaren said. "Now it's time to really blossom the unit, and I'm excited about Col. Gregory taking over."
The COG was formed under the supervision of Brig. Gen. (Ret.) James Cunningham, former commander of the Oregon Air National Guard. The move brought together the five geographically-separated Air Guard units in the state of Oregon under one banner.
Along with the 142nd Fighter Wing in Portland, and the 173rd Fighter Wing in Klamath Falls, the COG has prepared Oregon's Air Guard units and personnel for future growth and opportunity, O'Hollaren said.
"This is a maturation of that vision," he said. "This unit is very valuable to the state from an emergency operations perspective, but also for the military from a combat control point of view," he added.
Gregory said the personnel in the COG not only possess the training, equipment and skills necessary to complete their mission of providing air combat control, but are able to assist other emergency agencies in Oregon during times of natural or man-made disaster.
He pointed to the TOPOFF-4 joint exercise and recent flood response in Oregon's coastal towns during the latter part of 2007 as evidence of how pertinent the unit's mission is here in Oregon. And with units of the COG located throughout OregonWarrenton, Portland, and Klamath FallsGregory said the unit has the ability to respond anywhere in the state in a matter of a few hours.
"Going forward, the most important thing we need to do (in the COG) is to bring this unit's strengths to assisting the state in times of need and emergency," Gregory said.
"We're excited about the future for this organization," O'Hollaren added.
The Combat Operations Group is made up of the 116th Air Control Squadron in Warrenton, the 270th Air Traffic Control Squadron in Klamath Falls, and the 123rd Weather Flight, 125th Special Tactics Squadron and 272nd Combat Communications Squadron in Portland, Ore.
The COG serves as the Oregon Air National Guard's ground component force, serving both the state and the nation in times of national security and homeland defense.
080202-F-1639C-016: Brig. Gen. Daniel B. O'Hollaren, Commander of the Oregon Air National Guard (left), presents the unit guideon for the Combat Operations Group to Lt. Col. Robert J. Gregory III, during the COG's change of command ceremony held at the Anderson Readiness Center in Salem, Ore., March 2, 2008. Gregory replaces Lt. Col. Ronald G. Kessinger, who will assume the role of Air National Guard Chief of Staff at Joint Forces Headquarters, in Salem, Ore. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs Office)
080202-F-1639C-025: Col. Robert J. Gregory III, (left), presents his predecessor, Lt. Col. Ronald G. Kessinger, with a commemorative plaque during the COG's change of command ceremony held at the Anderson Readiness Center in Salem, Ore., March 2, 2008. Kessinger will assume the role of Air National Guard Chief of Staff at Joint Forces Headquarters, in Salem, Ore. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs Office)
Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, 503-584-3887
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