Guest Opinions

Save the Boise Bench from F-15s, move Guard fighter missions to Mountain Home

In August 2015, a group of F-15Es normally stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base operated out of Gowen Field in Boise while runways in Mountain Home were undergoing routine maintenance. A fleet of A-10s, upper right, has been stationed at Gowen since 1996.
In August 2015, a group of F-15Es normally stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base operated out of Gowen Field in Boise while runways in Mountain Home were undergoing routine maintenance. A fleet of A-10s, upper right, has been stationed at Gowen since 1996. Boise

This Guest Opinion is in response to the Sept. 30 headline “A third runway” that was part of the article “An airport at a crossroads.”

There is no possible way a third runway for F-15s and F-35s could be constructed at or near the Boise Airport without the noise destroying our Bench community, not to mention the millions of taxpayer dollars that it would cost to build it.

A couple of summers back, we residents of the Boise Bench got an earful of what an F-15 sounds like. It was enough to provoke Bench residents of all ages and political persuasions to attend meetings with airport officials about the airport’s future plans. The meeting’s agenda was neither pro nor con, yet of the 100 or more folks in attendance at every meeting, all thought the F-15s too loud to be near a residential neighborhood. Some shared stories of shattered windows, disrupted sleep for their infants, or worse.

Obviously, when we all moved to the Bench, we realized there would be airplane noise, and even the Warthogs provoked no response. F-15s and F-35s are another dimension entirely. Have air horns blasted into both ears at once and that might be close. Ironically, I’ve read Letters to the Editor supporting the planes, all from locals 20 miles or more from the Boise airport. Perhaps they need to hear the planes close up.

Local politicians and economic experts, none of whom live on the Bench, also support having F-15s and F-35s at the airport because it creates work. From the amount of construction going on in Boise, I’d say Boise’s economy is vibrant, so why not help out Mountain Home with the jobs. I’m sure we Bench residents would love to aid our fellow city. The U.S. Air Force has even proposed moving Boise’s flying mission to Mountain Home, where there’s already a perfectly adequate airport, far from residences. This is the only solution.

But here’s the problem. The National Guardsmen simply don’t want to commute to Mountain Home, and for this they’ll sacrifice our Bench community. They live in Boise and don’t want to drive. They’ll say moving would hamper their recruiting efforts, but how many eager young fighter pilots would turn down a mission because they’d rather live in Boise than Mountain Home? Does the National Guard think Mountain Home is that bad?

Both Gov. Butch Otter and Boise Mayor Dave Bieter support having the F-15s and F-35s at the Boise airport. I’m sure Air National Guard Commanders are more impressive to them than the common folk attending the Bench meetings about the planes. But this is more than a local issue. When bonds came up to expand the Foothills, Bench residents voted for it, in spite of the fact that we live some distance away. We now ask our fellow Boiseans to rally with us in opposing having the F-15s and F-35s in Boise, and instead stationing them at the Mountain Home Air Force Base. Please contact your local representatives. This is a case of the little guy fighting against our local politicians and the Air National Guard. We’ll need all the help we can get.

Boise Airport Director Rebecca Hupp told the Idaho Statesman's Editorial Board in December 2015 that a new third runway at the airport is likely a ways off, but planning for one remains on the agenda.

Patrick Harren is a retired marine engineer whose wife commutes daily to Mountain Home for work.

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