173rd Fighter Wing Airmen enjoy local beauty, work to preserve it

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jefferson Thompson
  • 173rd Fighter Wing

Getting from Kingsley Field to just about anywhere will require a trip through some spectacular, natural beauty—or to put it another way the base lies in the heart of some amazing real estate.

This fact is not lost on its Airmen. Many of Kingsley’s members consider its proximity to the outdoors an indispensable perk of life here.

"I came up here in October of 1985 on temporary duty and absolutely fell in love with Klamath Falls,” said Chief Master Sgt. James Dean, the 173rd Mission Support Group Chief.

In 1985 he moved from Mirimar Naval Air Station where worsening traffic and growing crowds left him few opportunities for his passions—namely hunting and fishing. Thirty years after moving to Klamath Falls he says he spends as much time as possible in the great outdoors, “probably two or three times a week and almost every weekend, I’m either going fishing, going camping, scouting an area—an out-of-door activity,” he said.

He’s not alone by any stretch, Master Sgt. Matt Marshall says his love for the wilderness began as early as he can remember. “The first few years of my life I was raised in a wilderness cabin with no electricity or running water. My parents described it as the best years of their lives, which created a connection between my family and our love of the wilderness that has never faded.”

That cabin was located near Bly Mountain just outside Klamath Falls. Since those days he’s also pursued extensive survival and navigation training in the wild and he was also a wildlife biologist for a time. It would seem he definitely qualifies as an “outdoorsman”. When he’s not enjoying the local area he’s a contracting officer for the 173rd Fighter Wing and is closing in on a twenty-five year career in the Oregon Air National Guard.

“I have seen the impact that our citizen Soldiers and Airman have in our communities, our schools, our civic events and our families,” he said.  “Being an Oregon Guardsman has sincerely been the most humbling, challenging and satisfying experience of my life.”

One example of Airmen helping the community happened last summer during one of the worst fire seasons on record when nearly 100 members of the 173rd Fighter Wing fought wildland fires all over the state of Oregon. This year, Airmen from all over the base are volunteering for what promises to be another catastrophic fire season and already several security forces troops are assisting the state on a large fire near Cave Junction, Ore.

Master Sgt. Jon Anderson, the base emergency manager, said they have nearly 80 volunteers so far.

“I absolutely want these areas saved and preserved,” said one of this year’s volunteers, Tech. Sgt. Kathi Damrow. “This is where we recreate—we wakeboard, we snowboard, we hunt and fish and we like to be outside as much as possible. This is why we are raising our family here and this is one way I can help save these areas.”

Nearly every Airman at Kingsley Field has similar stories of enjoying the lakes, rivers and mountains that surround the Klamath Basin, perhaps that is why so many volunteer to help preserve it.