Gowen Field Air National Guard Base
The 124th Wing, Idaho Air National Guard includes two flying squadrons and 12 support units based at Gowen Air National Guard Base (Boise Air Terminal) in Boise, Idaho. Boise Airport serves as the primary commercial service airport in southwestern Idaho, but its service area (with a population in excess of 500,000) extends well into eastern Oregon. The 124th Wing, a reserve component of the US Air Force, is one of the few Air Guard units in the nation with three separate federal missions.
Gowen Field is the home of the Idaho Air National Guard, Army National Guard, and reserve units of the Army, Navy, and Marines. The 124 th Wing of the Idaho Air National Guard is the host unit at Gowen Field. Until recently, the Wing exclusively operated fighter aircraft from Gowen Field. The Wing was recently given the mission of theater airlift, and accomplishes crew training in air-drop and short-field landing and takeoff maneuvers in C-130 aircraft. The Wing also operates A-10 Thunderbolt close air support aircraft. The Idaho Army National Guard is also very active at Gowen Field, and consists of armor, helicopter, and other training units. The combined area within the Airport boundaries under exclusive-use military lease is about 570 acres of land. Another 1,500 acres on the Airport is under a joint-use agreement between the City and the military.
Until the mid-1990s, the mission of the 124th Wing involved F-4 fighter aircraft. As F-4 fighter aircraft were being phased out of the U.S military, the 124th Wing was selected to assume close-air support and tactical airlift missions. Therefore, the aircraft based at Gowen Field were replaced with A-10 Thunderbolt close air support and C-130 Hercules transport aircraft.
The IDANG mission of training crews in the operation of short-field landing requires that each C-130 pilot based at Gowen Field complete 20 daytime short-field landings per year and eight (8) nighttime short-field landing per year. As of November 1, 2000, there were twenty (20) IDANG C-130 pilots based at Gowen Field.
The intent of the training exercise is to prepare pilots for landings and takeoffs at short and/or unimproved landing strips in any area of the world. This is generally accomplished by conducting training operations on short and narrow runways. In accordance with Air Force Training regulations, the minimum runway dimensions for C-130 training purposes are 3,500-ft length and 60-ft width. Training can be conducted on a longer runway; however a runway closely matching the physical dimensions prescribed by Air Force Regulations is preferable and affords the most realistic training.
Under the prescribed training procedures, the training site must have present - in addition to the runway surface -- air traffic control surveillance and monitoring, and aircraft rescue and firefighting capability. Drop zone/landing zone training on a third runway at Gowen Field would be used to accommodate the training requirements of the C-130 aircraft. The size was designated to be 4,000 feet long and 60 feet wide. Since the mission conversion, the drop zone/landing zone has been used as a drop zone only. To meet the year round training requirements for short-field landings and to reduce the necessity of unpaved surface maintenance, the IDANG has identified the need to train on a paved surface. As such a short-field training paved surface is not available at Gowen Field, training must be conducted in alternative locations.
The IDANG mission conducts about 145 airdrop operations each year and about 105 landing zone sorties (using the short-field landing requirements). The IDANG is authorized about 1,500 flying hours annually for the four C-130 aircraft based at Gowen Field. Currently, training of C-130 crews from Gowen Field is conducted primarily at Gowen Field, McChord Air Force Base, Twin Falls Airport and Mountain Home Air Force Base. The use of McChord AFB, Twin Falls Airport, or Mountain Home AFB, for this purpose has several significant disadvantages. The primary disadvantage is that the Idaho ANG has difficulty meeting minimum pilot training requirements for the C-130 crews using these other locations. Three issues arise: availability of these facilities, size of the runway, and the added travel time to fly to these locations, particularly McChord. Because of these limitations, and the requisite training time, it is particularly difficult to schedule C-130 crews within the limited availability of part-time (traditional guardsmen) aircrews. The result is that short-field landing training is difficult to accomplish on a consistent basis and training is minimal. Thus, there is a need to provide a facility to allow for suitable training of the IDANG C-130 crews.
In addition to the military, a major federal user of Boise Airport is the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC). The NIFC at Boise is the major fire-fighting coordination center in the United States, serving to stage, supply, and manage efforts to fight wildfires throughout the country. The efforts of the NIFC at Boise are primarily logistical support. The U.S. Forest Service also uses Boise Airport as a base for firefighting air tankers. Multiple Forest Service contract air tankers may be based at Boise during the firefighting season.
Boise's first municipal airport was built in 1926 on a grave bed beside the Boise River where State University is located today. On April 6, 1926, Varney Airlines flew the first commercial airmail in the U.S. from Pasco to Boise to Elko. Varney later joined others to form United Airlines. United Airlines, which traces its beginnings to Boise, inaugurated jet service to the city on October 26, 1964. It is the only airline to have served Boise continuously since 1933. A great moment in local air history came on September 4, 1927 when Charles A. Lindbergh landed his "Spirit of St. Louis" in Boise.
Boise bought and leased land for the present airport in 1936-38. Its 8,800 foot runway was the nation's longest at that time. Varney's 1931 steel hangar from the old field was moved to the present one in 1939. When planes got too big for it, it was closed in as part of the terminal building. It is still inside today's modern terminal. The Army Air Corps leased Boise's field and built a major training base for B-17 and B-24 bomber crews. More than 6,000 men were stationed there for most of the war years.
When the war was over Gowen Field was returned to Boise City, then leased to the Idaho National Guard, which still uses it. By 1952 Boise's little airport consisted of the old Varney hangar, now closed in for a terminal building, and a new air traffic control tower, dedicated on July 13th. Boise Airport has two parallel runways: North runway (10L/28R): 10,000 ft. long and 150 ft. wide; and South runway (10R/28L): 9,763 ft. long and 150 ft. wide.
Secretary of Defense Recommendation: In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to realign Boise Air Terminal Air Guard Station (AGS) by distributing the four C-130H aircraft of the 124th Wing (ANG) to the 153rd Airlift Wing (ANG), Cheyenne, WY. The new, larger unit at Cheyenne would create an active duty/ ANG association. Boise (66-SOF/CSAR, 66-airlift) operated a mix of C-130 and A-10 aircraft. These aircraft had very different missions. This recommendation would realign Boise to operate only A-10s and distributes its C-130 aircraft to Cheyenne (118-airlift). Boise was a valuable A-10 base because of its proximity to air-to-ground ranges with scoreable strafing and bombing, threat emitters, and integrated air combat training. In turn, Cheyenne would be robusted to a larger, more effective C-130 squadron size. Additionally, Cheyenne's proximity to an active duty Air Force installation (F.E. Warren Air Force Base) would allow it to host an active/ANG associate unit.
Payback: The total estimated one-time cost to the Department of Defense to implement this recommendation would be $2.5M. The net of all costs and savings to the Department during the implementation period would be a cost of $1.6M. Annual recurring savings after implementation are $0.3M, with payback expected in 8 years. The net present value of the cost and savings to the Department over 20 years would be a savings of $1.7M. Assuming no economic recovery, this recommendation could result in a maximum potential reduction of 159 jobs (84 direct jobs and 75 indirect jobs) over the 2006-2011 period in the Boise City-Nampa, ID, Metropolitan Statistical economic area (less than 0.1 percent). Environmentally, there would be potential impacts to land use constraints or sensitive resource areas; noise; and wetlands that may need to be considered during the implementation of this recommendation. Impacts of costs include $0.3M in costs for environmental compliance and waste management (included in cost calculation above).
Secretary of Defense Justification: Currently, Boise (66-SOF/CSAR, 66-airlift) operates a mix of C-130 and A-10 aircraft. These aircraft have very different missions. This recommendation realigns Boise to operate only A-10s and distributes its C-130 aircraft to Cheyenne (118- airlift). Boise is a valuable A-10 base because of its proximity to air-to-ground ranges with score-able strafing and bombing, threat emitters, and integrated air combat training. In turn, the C-130 squadron in Cheyenne is increased to a more effective size. Additionally, Cheyenne's proximity to an active-duty Air Force installation (F.E. Warren Air Force Base) allows it to host an active/ANG associate unit.
Community Concerns: The Boise, ID, community criticized DoD's Mission Compatability Index (MCI) scores, claiming the Air Force's one-size-fitsall approach for both active and reserve bases creates a built-in bias favoring large active-duty bases. In fact, Boise Air Guard Station's mission capability is greater than that of eight other bases scheduled to gain C-130s under DoD's proposals. The Air Force failed to account for personnel losses associated with relocating Boise's aerial port flight mission. The data cut-off year of 2003 did not capture the full extent of almost $25 million in infrastructure improvements over the last decade. Additionally, the community believes realigning Boise's C-130 tactical airlifters would jeopardize transportation of civil support teams to major homeland security events in the Pacific Northwest. Last, advocates asserted DoD's proposal would affect several tenant organizations, including the National Interagency Fire Center.
Commission Findings: The Commission found that the Department of Defense recommendation to realign Boise Air Terminal Air Guard Station was supportable despite concerns over homeland security, military value and overstated savings raised by the community. The Commission acknowledged that the Air National Guard inventory of C-130s is shrinking and that it is not efficient to maintain the current strength of four C-130 aircraft at Boise.
This recommendation directing aircraft movement and personnel actions in connection with Air National Guard installations and organizations is designed to support the Future Total Force. The Commission expects that the Air Force will find new missions where needed, provide retraining opportunities, and take appropriate measures to limit possible adverse personnel impact. The Commission's intent is that the Air Force will act to assign sufficient aircrew and maintenance personnel to units gaining aircraft in accordance with current, established procedures. However, the Commission expects that all decisions with regard to manpower authorizations will be made in consultation with the governor of the state in which the affected Air National Guard unit is located. Any manpower changes must be made under existing authorities, and must be made consistent with existing limitations. Some reclassification of existing positions may be necessary, but should not be executed until the Air Force and the state have determined the future mission of the unit to preclude unnecessary personnel turbulence. This recommendation is consistent with the Commission's Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Laydown Plan.
Commission Recommendations: The Commission found that the Secretary of Defense deviated substantially from final selection criterion 1, as well as from the Force Structure Plan. Therefore, the Commission recommends the following:
Realign Boise Air Terminal Air Guard Station (AGS), ID. Distribute the 4 C-130 aircraft assigned to the 124th Wing (ANG) to meet the Primary Aircraft Authorizations (PAA) requirements established by the Base Closure and Realignment recommendations of the Secretary of Defense, as amended by the Base Closure and Realignment Commission.
Establish 6 PAA C-130 aircraft at the 153rd Airlift Wing (ANG), Cheyenne, Wyoming. The 153rd Airlift Wing (ANG) will create an active duty/ANG association at Cheyenne. The Air Force will supply an additional 6 PAA C-130 aircraft to establish an optimally-sized 12 PAA C-130 aircraft active duty/ANG associate airlift wing at Cheyenne.
If the State of Idaho decides to change the organization, composition and location of the 124th Wing (ANG) to integrate the unit into the Future Total Force, all personnel allotted to the 124th Wing (ANG) will remain in place and assume a mission relevant to the security interests of the State of Idaho and consistent with the integration of the unit into the Future Total Force, including but not limited to air mobility, C4ISR, engineering, flight training or unmanned aerial vehicles. Where appropriate, unit personnel will be retrained in skills relevant to the emerging mission.
This recommendation does not effect a change to the authorized end-strength of the Idaho Air National Guard. The distribution of aircraft currently assigned to the 124th Wing (ANG) is based upon a resource-constrained determination by the Department of Defense that the aircraft concerned will better support national security requirements in other locations and is not conditioned upon the agreement of the state.
The Commission found that this change and the recommendation as amended are consistent with the final selection criteria and the Force Structure Plan. The full text of this and all Commission recommendations can be found in Appendix Q of the BRAC 2005 Commission Report.
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