Perhaps you have a loved one who serves now at Gowen Field or did previously. Maybe it is when you see jets overhead during the drive home. Regardless of how you’re reminded of their presence, I imagine you share my sense of pride to have the Idaho Air National Guard as our neighbors and friends.
Today we have a unique opportunity to support the brave people who serve our state and nation when we need it most. Gowen Field, the Idaho Air National Guard and its 124th Fighter Wing are among five finalists for the F-35 aircraft mission. Considering the pending retirement of the A-10 Warthog, this is a great opportunity — for all of us.
Every year Gowen Field contributes more than $155 million in annual contributions to our economy, directly and indirectly. But its legacy of military contributions to our nation and state is just as powerful.
Fittingly, the same factors that made Gowen Field a finalist to house and support the F-35 mission were the ones that helped establish Gowen Field in 1940 — climatic and physical conditions. Within months of the announcement, construction began to house a wing of medium bombers and facilities for troops. The original cadre of 20 soldiers arrived on Easter Sunday in 1941, and the base officially became Gowen Field that July, in honor of Paul Gowen, a pilot from Caldwell who died in a plane crash.
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Throughout the war, and especially after Pearl Harbor, Gowen Field provided a variety of support during one of the most critical periods in American history. Several types of aircraft, from B-18 Bombers to the B-17 Flying Fortress, circulated through its facilities and runways. Once the war ended, the Army locked its gates and returned Gowen Field to Boise. Fortunately, the Idaho Air National Guard was born later that year.
Since its inception, the Idaho Air Guard has supported efforts in Korea, the Persian Gulf, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. Individual pilots received the Distinguished Flying Cross and an entire unit was awarded the “Best Flying Unit in the Air National Guard.” They have responded to crises in Idaho, from tracking floodwaters from the ruptured Teton Dam to surveying the damage of the Challis earthquake. They have seen countless aircraft, from the B-17 to the F-4 and, of course, the A-10 Warthog.
This is a legacy of excellence that must continue. While we’ve been fortunate to support the A-10 for more than two decades, we must also remember that we lost the C-130s in 2009 to the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act. The future is not guaranteed.
This is why we need your voice. The Air Force is diligent in its review of each base, which includes assessing community support for the mission, the Guard and Gowen Field. Please visit gowenstrong.com/show-your-support to learn more about what you can do and what a long-term F-35 fighter mission means to our state and community.
I encourage you to join me and stand with our Guardsmen in support of the F-35 mission.
Joe Stear is the mayor of Kuna.