Kingsley Field Change in Command
This article was written by Gerry O’Brien (Herald and News) and published on June 2nd, 2019
With much ceremony and a few light moments, Col. Jeff “Sled” Smith handed over the command of the 173rd Fighter Wing of the Oregon Air National Guard to longtime colleague Col. Jeff “Thug” Edwards on Saturday at Kingsley Air Field.
About 300 onlookers, dignitaries, friends, family and the entire wing command were present to witness the ceremony inside an air hangar with two F-15s framing the stage.
At one point in the ceremony, the name on one of the jets was revealed to sport Col. Jeff Edwards’ name as he took command of the wing.
Brigadier Gen. Donna Prigmore presided over the change in command, first awarding Col. Smith a Legion of Merit medal for guiding the air base.
Over the last several years, the wing has added training airspace, making it the second largest range in the entire Air Force, second only to the Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Kingsley Field has also secured the longest lease in the Air Force, until the year 2095, thanks to Smith, Prigmore said.
Kingsley consists of about 1,000 assigned airmen. It has some 32 F-15s it employ to train pilots.
For himself, Smith told the audience that the community — with its long-standing support — and all the members of the unit, played a part in him receiving the Legion of Merit.
He said a recent inspection of the base noted that there is high morale at Kingsley. Inspectors told him “the people at Kingsley are laser-focused on their mission and everywhere we went people were happy, they felt important and believed what they do matters.”
“Without you and the community support, were would not be able to accomplish what we have,” Smith said.
Edwards recounted the story of David R. Kingsley, the base’s namesake, who gave his life 75 years ago when his plane was shot down over the oil fields of Ploesti, Romania, now modern-day Bulgaria.
Kingsley served as a bombardier on a B-17 that had been crippled in the bombing mission. As it was going down, he gave his parachute to a wounded gunner and helped him escape the plane.
“That is the kind of service we are talking about,” he said. “He knew what it means to sacrifice, to be a professional, to be a team. That is what makes this place special today. And I am so honored to be on your team.
“There is a spirit at Kingsley Field that can’t be captured on a map. It lies in our hearts and stories of airmen who go above and beyond in service to one another,” Edwards said.
Smith noted that when people visit the base as skeptics, they usually leave as believers.
“I’m going to miss this more than you can fathom,” he said.