BOISE, IDAHO — Mountain Home Air Force Base is about an hour from the Treasure Valley, but many people around Boise might not know about the thousands of service men and women who could be their neighbors!
With the area known for its recreation, food and drink and so much more, you might not think of it as a major spot for military training.
Let's go inside Gowen Field to learn more about the Idaho National Guard.
"Often times when we wear the uniform downtown, people ask us if we're from Mountain home, and no offense to Mountain Home, but we're Idaho Guardsmen," said 124th Fighter Wing Commander Shannon Smith.
There's a strong military presence in Boise, but if you didn't look closely, you might not even notice. The south side of the Boise Airport is where you'll find Gowen Field, home to the Idaho Air and Idaho Army National Guard.
"So this is where we're based, and I don't know that a lot of people realize that, that your neighbors, your school teachers, your policemen, your nurses, they all work out here, a lot of them work out here as guardsmen," said Smith.
And it's at Gowen and local training areas south of Boise where the civilian soldiers and airmen of the Idaho National Guard train several times a year in order to stay combat ready, just in case they are called to active duty. So if you look to the skies during a picnic or are catching a flight at the airport and see intimidating military planes flying around, please don't think the City of Trees is under attack.
"Our flying operation happens out of a joint-use field, so we share that with civilian air traffic, commercial traffic and the private planes," said Smith.
While Gowen Field does accommodate the Marine, Army, and Navy Reserve on the Federal level, it's the roughly 13-hundred Air and 33-hundred Army troops of the Idaho National Guard that live and work in our Treasure Valley Communities, and who you would see responding to Idaho state emergencies or larger-scale natural disasters. But no matter if they're protecting the people of Idaho or the entire nation, they're constantly training to be combat-ready.
"We just deployed over 12-hundred Airmen and Soldiers down to Southern California for a major exercise. For the Army, it's their capstone exercise at the National Training Center. After they finish that exercise, then they'll be available for combat contingencies world-wide," said Smith.
That means several of our local heroes in plain clothes vanish from the Treasure Valley for at least two weeks to be thrown into simulated war scenarios.
"And that's the dynamic that the active duty doesn't really have to deal with is we share our Airmen with their employers in the community, so when we do these big exercises, we all come together and what needs to get out to the community is how appreciative we are to the employers to allow these soldiers and these airmen to maintain their readiness and go do the joint fight," said Smith.
A sacrifice for the families and employers of those that serve in the guard, but as those who participate will tell you, an incredibly important event for their training.
"It's unique in what it can duplicate, especially given it's location which is near Nelis Air Force Base, and it's one of the few locations where we can have both Army and Air assets integrated and working together on a scale of this size," said Idaho Air Guard Pilot Keley Clark.
And they want you to know, that they're ready to go!
"For everyone to know that in this state and this Valley that we're Idaho Guardsmen that serve our nation but we also serve our state, that's truly important. Our goal is to be ready to fight and be ready to support in times of natural disaster or crisis. And we'll be there for the community," said Smith.