PORTLAND, Ore. -- Throughout 2022, members of the 142nd Wing have helped to clean up and restore the firmly standing World War II chapel building on Portland Air National Guard Base (PANGB).
The Chapel was built in 1941 as a temporary structure and has persevered through natural disasters and housed many events over the years. The chapel was closed for renovation back in 2016 and officially reopened in April, 2022.
Following the chapel's reopening, a revamp of the chapel has enabled members of the 142nd Wing to come together as a community, sharing commander’s calls, chapel services, and other notable and significant events.
One such event included a change of command ceremony wherein the 142nd Wing Security Forces Commander, Capt. Noah Irshad, became the Security Forces Squadron commander. The ceremony was one of the first public events to be held in the chapel following its reopening.
Irshad remarked on this major career milestone and the significance of holding it in the same historic chapel where others before him have done the same.
“The chapel was a great place for the [Security Forces Squadron] change of command,” said Irshad. “It [was] an honor to take command and to do it in a historic building like the chapel made it that much better.”
142nd Wing Chaplain, Maj. Robert Edwards, has played an active role in making the chapel whole again.
“It’s great. One of the things that’s wonderful about it is that it’s gotten more use in the last three months than it ever did,” said Edwards. “People are seeing it more during Commanders calls [and] changes of command. There's more seating capacity here than anywhere else on base.”
In an effort to get the chapel in serviceable condition, service members from the 142nd Wing have worked together to refurbish the World War II era relic, including 142nd Wing Chaplain Corps superintendent, Master Sgt. Sara Wassam.
“We want to make it a welcoming space for all,” said Wassam. “This includes having weddings or ceremonies, family movie nights, a safe place for meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous. We are excited for what the Chapel will offer for our military and family community.”
In addition to fostering a sense of community, the chapel has become a symbol of love as numerous service members have held their wedding ceremonies there.
Command Senior Enlisted Leader of the Oregon National Guard, Chief Master Sgt. Daniel Conner, has served in the state of Oregon for nearly 40 years, with many of those years served PANGB. Conner married his wife, Pamela on October 10, 1998, in this very chapel.
“I am very proud of my service. So to be able to do it there was something that my family also enjoyed because they all championed for me, and were proud of my service as well. So being able to do it there was definitely something that represented me,” said Conner.
Through the excitement of getting the chapel up and running again, Wassam highlighted that it was not always smooth sailing. Along with the chapel clean up, they also had their everyday duties that needed to be accomplished.
“One of our biggest challenges was only having two of us in the Chaplain Corps to assist with the project: Chaplain Edwards and myself,” said Wassam.
On the brightside, through the clouds came a ray of sunshine, with help from enlisted members and contributions from leadership, the chapel rehabilitation was, to its core, a team effort.
“Watching us all come together has been a highlight of my nearly 20-year career,” said Wassam.
According to Wassam, next up is the continuation of cosmetic renovation, such as the lighting, painting the interior, implementing new flooring, and refinishing the pews.
As the years go by and everything around us changes, one thing that stands firm is the chapel. Not just a building, but a home for us to come together, through religious services, community meetings, and refurbishing projects, the chapel is timeless.