Guest Opinions

F-35 fighter jets belong at Gowen Field. It would continue Boise’s tradition of service.

An F-35 fighter jet on display at the Gowen Thunder 2017 air show at Gowen Field in October 2017.
An F-35 fighter jet on display at the Gowen Thunder 2017 air show at Gowen Field in October 2017. Idaho Statesman file

Editor’s note: On Thursday, the Air Force announced that Boise’s Gowen Field is an alternate selection, but not one of its two choices for a future F-35 mission.

I support basing F-35s at Boise. Here’s why: I served in the Idaho Air Guard for 38 years, and understand this issue especially as a former senior flight operations supervisor. Also, in 2009 I published a history of Idaho’s Air Guard. Readers should therefore consider the following points:

TRADITION: In 1942, the Boise airport became the Boise Bomber Base, training World War II crews in the B-17 and B-24 bombers to engage the enemy in Europe. After the war Boise businesses and citizens enthusiastically supported the P-51 crews of the new 190th Fighter-Bomber Squadron of the Idaho Air Guard. Organized Oct. 23, 1946, at the Boise Airport, the Idaho Air National Guard quickly became our nation’s premier reserve fighter unit. An excellent airfield, open airspace and nearby weapons ranges helped the new squadron excel. Boiseans enthusiastically supported and joined the new unit.

AVIGATION: By 1958, the city recognized that land west of the airport was developing into housing, and established “avigation easements” for many of those properties. These easements resemble property liens, and define the properties’ proximity to the airport and establish overflight rights. More recently, many more avigation easements were established east of the airport. Unfortunately, recent Boise arrivals purchased properties in these avigation zones and might not have understood the implication of airport operations and overflight rights.

OPERATIONS: Local military flight operations can be restricted. As a former Air National Guard flight operations supervisor, I enforced such restrictions. We established and followed “noise abatement procedures” to minimize noise effects caused by our RF-4s. Restrictions on afterburner use and steep climb angles helped reduce our impact. These same procedures can also be used for local F-35 operations.

PERSONNEL: Air Guardsmen receive training at Air Force technical schools and leadership academies, and must continuously upgrade these skills. Our community benefits as these ready-made leaders employ their talents in Boise’s economy. An Idaho Air Guard F-35 wing will provide many more highly skilled workers to our economy.

PATRIOTIC OBLIGATION: In today’s hectic world, we’re all concerned with our immediate lives and surroundings, often adopting a NIMBY mindset — not in my back yard. But consider this: Our country continues to be a beacon to the rest of the world. Our values are respected, our system of governance is an example and our armed forces have benefited other nations. Following World War II, the U.S. put both Europe and Japan back on their feet. I believe we should consider military aircraft sound as our contribution to our national defense system — a paying of our patriotic dues. This is Boise’s tradition of service.

Bill Miller is a retired Idaho Air National Guard colonel, former Idaho aeronautics administrator, commercial pilot and author of “First Class… or Not at All,” an Idaho Air Guard history.