KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. --
Preparing for a Sentry Eagle Exercise is a lengthy endeavor; structuring parking for more than 50 visiting fighter and tanker aircraft, making sure fuel supplies cover a month's worth of flying in five days, planning food and lodging for hundreds of visiting aircrew members, and so on.
Preparation takes on a life of its own, stretching across nearly every organization on base, and requires a sustained effort to execute.
Among these myriad tasks is the effort to publicize the upcoming event to draw people to the open house, which is in large measure a "thank you" from the 173rd Fighter Wing to the people of the Klamath Basin.
A significant part of this effort is the creation of a Sentry Eagle patch, which adorns T-shirts and other merchandise, posters, social media platforms and press releases.
This year’s preparation led to a special Sentry Eagle 2020 patch collection.
"There are seven patches," said Lt. Col. Adam Gaudinski, the Sentry Eagle 2020 project officer. "We put it out to the men and women of Kingsley to decide what they wanted, and we received four or five different ones, and I funneled those to the designers."
Gaudinski included a combat theme relating to the sentry concept, that of guarding something valuable. "What is a sentry? It's a guardian– a warrior – someone who stands at the gates to protect our assets or preserve our freedom. One who is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice," he said.
In a nutshell, that is air superiority, guardians in the air keeping enemies at bay, protecting friendly forces.
When Sentry Eagle 2020 kicks off, members of the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps, both active and reserve components, will take to the skies as one team, and they will all wear the Sentry Eagle 2020 patch on their right shoulder.
There are Red Air Patches, OCP Patches, 173rd Fighter Wing-specific patches, overall exercise patches, but notably there is only one Basic Fighter Maneuvers Champ patch.
One pilot wears it, and anyone can issue a challenge to see if they can take it. A dogfight in the airspace determines the victor and who will wear it going forward.
"We expect it to change hands every day, maybe multiple times a day," said Gaudinski.
It adds a visible wrinkle for the visiting public during the open house; if a pilot is wearing that patch, he's the "Best Pilot" for the moment.
But when asked what his favorite patch is, Gaudinski cited the overall exercise patch featuring two F-15 aircraft over Crater Lake, perhaps the most distinctive feature in the local area. He said its shape – that of a pentagon – symbolizes the actual Pentagon building in Washington. The different services come together in the building, reflecting the integration a real war requires. It also demonstrates the quality of training Sentry Eagle 2020 will provide.