Battle Ground flies high with Oregon Air National Guard jet

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

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Whether they're maintaining the jets that protect the Pacific Northwest's skies or flying them, Battle Ground residents make a daily impact on the Oregon Air National Guard's 142nd Fighter Wing.

On Thursday morning, the Oregon Air National Guard unveiled an F-15 Eagle fighter jet with a Battle Ground emblem on it, celebrating the city's contributions. Thirty Battle Ground residents serve in the Oregon Air National Guard's 142nd Fighter Wing, according to Maj. Melinda Lepore.

Pendleton, Ore. also received recognition during the ceremony at the Oregon Air National Guard Base in Portland.

The Oregon Air National Guard has placed the emblems of 21 cities upon its fighter jets. Vancouver was recognized in May 2007.

"Symbolically speaking, each time we launch one of these jets, the communities soar with us," Lepore said.

Battle Ground also achieved recognition in 2007, Lepore said. However, the city did not receive an emblem at the time because the military organization was replacing its fighter jets, she explained.

Retired Master Sgt. Erik Simmons of Corvallis, Ore. designed the Battle Ground emblem, which features beams of light shooting above a mountain and trees. The emblem is on the F-15's left side near the cockpit.

"It's incredible for us," Battle Ground Mayor Lisa Walters said of being recognized by the Oregon Air National Guard. "It's hard to put into words. It's not something I anticipated."

Walters viewed the emblem as a gesture of respect and thanks not just to today's Oregon Air National Guard members from Battle Ground, but also the ones who have served in the past.

Walters and other Battle Ground officials, including City Manager John Williams, took a tour of a hangar at the air base and also had the opportunity to sit inside an F-15 cockpit.

Walters described the experience as "awesome." She noted the cockpit's disorienting amount of buttons made her wonder, "How do these guys do that?" in reference to flying the F-15s, which can go twice the speed of sound and fly miles above the ground.

Ray Legendre: 360-735-4517; www.facebook.com/raylegend;www.twitter.com/col_smallcities;ray.legendre@columbian.com.