As a veteran, I can proudly say the military impacted my life in immeasurable ways. Most importantly, it has shown me the power of serving one another — whether it was my country, a fellow soldier, or the community of Garden City that I call home.
Like you, I was excited when I first heard that Gowen Field was named one of five finalists under consideration for the F-35 fighter aircraft mission. Gowen Field gives us much to be proud about as the home of the 124th Fighter Wing and the Idaho Air National Guard. Together they have built a remarkable reputation that spans more than seven decades, while strengthening our community by developing tremendous character in those we gladly call neighbors, family and friends, and through considerable economic contributions.
These contributions are especially notable as we look toward the future. Ultimately, it is not a matter of if, but when, the Air Force retires our beloved A-10 “Warthog,” which has played a critical role in the success of Gowen Field.
Today the Idaho Air National Guard is one of the top employers in the state, providing more than 1,300 direct, 600 full-time and 700 part-time jobs. It contributes more than $155 million each year to our economy, directly and indirectly. Additionally, many in the Guard are those with full-time jobs as teachers, police officers, construction workers and other key roles.
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Their contributions remind us that service is not a one-way street. Just as we need the airmen and women to protect our country and keep our local economy strong, they need our voices when rare, tremendous opportunities like the F-35 mission arise. The Air Force wisely takes an exhaustive approach to evaluating potential sites for their missions, which includes public feedback. This means your voice matters and can help shape the future of Gowen Field, the Idaho Air National Guard and the 124th Fighter Wing.
We need you to step up for those who are willing and ready to serve. Gowen Field is an ideal location for a new mission. The economic impact of such a mission — or the lack of one — is significant. This is especially true when the F-35 mission has the potential to generate more jobs and economic impact than Gowen Field is already responsible for today.
I stand with our Guardsmen in support of the F-35 mission at Gowen Field and encourage you to visit gowenstrong.com/show-your-support to learn more about what the Guard, and a long-term fighter mission, mean to our state and community.
John Evans is the mayor of Garden City.