A-10 Thunderbolt II pilots from the 190th Fighter Squadron, part of the 124th Fighter Wing, Idaho Air National Guard, participated in a training exercise Feb. 1-2.
The pilots landed at Jocelyn Field, Magic Valley Regional Airport in Twin Falls, turned their own jets, and continued training exercises.
Landing at an airport that military pilots don’t use every day allows them to practice agile combat employment (ACE), which is a proactive and reactive operational scheme of maneuver to increase survivability while generating combat power.
“When thinking within this ACE concept, we may land in a place austere enough that there isn’t support by crew chiefs, especially A-10 trained crew chiefs,” said Col. Ryan Richardson, 124th FW deputy commander, “so pilots need to be familiar with how to service their own aircraft on the turns.”
The training exercise was designed to enhance agility and resilience, preparing for issues that may occur in a combat mission or high-threat environments, said Col. J.R. Williams, 124th Operations Group Commander.
“Specifically, the 124th Fighter Wing is testing command and control capabilities and concepts of operation while generating air power from different locations, all at a moment’s notice,” Williams said.
Although prior coordination with other military units, local airport authorities, and community partners took place, this simulated training mirrors what military aircrews might be faced with in a deployed environment.
“This is a 190th Fighter Squadron focused exercise,” said Richardson, “but we’re getting lots of support from other agencies.”
The IDANG pilots also practiced combat search and rescue with support from the Idaho Army National Guard’s UH-60 Black Hawks out of Gowen Field. Additionally, Navy EA-18G Growlers from Electronic Attack Squadron 135 in Washington integrated into some of the tactical training in the airspace. The A-10s were supported inside of the airspace by the 266th Range Squadron, an IDANG tenant unit located at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. They provided threat emitters to provide a realistic, contested training scenario.
“The flying training itself is similar to the training that we do daily, but the integration and the simulated war-time scenario of the exercise makes it more complex,” Richardson said.
A C-130 Hercules from the 152nd Airlift Wing, Nevada Air National Guard, also supported the exercise by transporting military members from Gowen Field to Twin Falls. Crew chiefs arrived at the regional airport and served as instructors for the pilots and as safety observers to make sure everything was done correctly.
“We’re proud and excited to be able to operate out of Twin Falls, and we’re grateful for the support of the airport,” said Richardson. “This is fantastic training that’s going to make us more capable in both our federal and our state mission. We are extremely fortunate to be able to get this kind of training in our backyard.”
Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur/Idaho Military Division Public Affairs
BOISE, Idaho – A deep breath in, deep breath out. An Airman from the Idaho Air National Guard holds his weapon steady in front of him, pressing it against his shoulder, finger on the trigger, his body low to the ground. He takes a small, strategic step into the plume of smoke swirling around him. Surrounded by a blanket of red smoke makes it hard to see his battle buddy but he knows his counterpart, a Soldier from the Idaho Army National Guard’s Medical Detachment, is close behind him.
The red smoke is used to conceal the medical team’s movements as they defend their medical structures and personnel who are being ambushed while conducting Tactical Combat Casualty Care on the battlefield. The two Guardsmen were among approximately 200 Idaho National Guard Soldiers, Airmen and their active duty and Navy Reserve counterparts who joined forces for a mass casualty combat exercise, Feb. 1-4, near Gowen Field.
“The main focus of this joint services training was to all come together, learn each other’s jobs and create multi-capable Soldiers, Airmen and Sailors on top of learning how to respond in mass casualty scenarios,” said Senior Master Sgt. Davis Nguyen, the 124th Medical Group function area manager. “Equally important, was the ability to perform medical care while under mental and physical stress.”
The Idaho Air National Guard’s Critical Care Air Transport Team, the ground surgical team and other medical personnel from the 124th Medical Group conducted the exercise with the Idaho Army National Guard’s Charlie Company, 145th Brigade Support Battalion Medical Detachment and medevac Soldiers from the 1st of the 168th Aviation Regiment; the Navy Operational Support Center; and active duty Airmen with the 366th Medical Group from Mountain Home Air Force Base.
During the exercise, Soldiers, Airmen and Sailors learned each other’s roles on the battlefield and in the sky. The Idaho Army National Guard’s State Aviation Group incorporated UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and pilots who responded to 9-Line medevac requests, transporting critical care patients with CCATT officers and medevac Soldiers who stabilized them onboard while flying through simulated combat zones until they reached a higher echelon of care.
“All of our pilots need to practice this piece of the exercise and learn how to fly with patients in the back,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Theron Cameron, instructor pilot and medical evacuation officer from the 168th Aviation Regiment. “We need to learn the CCATT’s language to know if they are in the middle of performing a procedure as it cues us to fly as smoothly as possible through the combat areas, while communicating back that we may need to aggressively maneuver around danger.”
Airmen from the 124th Fighter Wing’s Security Forces provided combat lessons on defense and protection, 360-degree security, care under fire and tactical movements with red smoke concealment.
Colin Yates, an Idaho Peace Officers Standards and Training instructor specializing in wounds and trauma for tactical medicine, created realistic wounds on 124th Fighter Wing’s Student Flight role players acting as casualties for a more real-world training experience of TCCC on the battlefield.
Sailors from the NOSC provided the medical logistics support for the simulated deployment location, while learning from both Army and Air medics on tactical field care, casualty evacuation and Roles 1-4 medical care facilities.
“It’s anticipated in future conflicts, there will be a lot more integration with forces. We need to interact with each other and speak each other’s languages,” said Maj. Mark Urban, CCATT physician. “This exercise was developed with that in mind, being able to integrate is really key to that Total Force concept.”
Gov. Brad Little and members of Idaho’s congressional delegation are proud to announce that the U.S. Air Force has identified the Idaho Air National Guard’s 124th Fighter Wing to potentially receive an F-16 Fighting Falcon mission at Gowen Field in Boise, Idaho.
F-16s are expected to begin arriving at Gowen Field in 2027.
“Idaho is proud of the critical role we have long played in supporting the nation’s defense strategy through the valuable work of the men and women serving at Gowen Field,” Gov. Little said. “The transition to the sophisticated F-16 mission at Gowen Field is the next step in the Idaho Air National Guard’s enduring commitment to safeguarding the liberties and freedoms we hold dear as Americans. This is an exciting step that will benefit the State of Idaho and the United States of America.”
The Idaho Air National Guard has maintained a fighter mission at Gowen Field for more than 75 years. This transition would replace the 18 A-10 Thunderbolt IIs that have been in service at Gowen Field since 1996. The one-for-one exchange would include the same number of F-16s, which are a more advanced and combat-effective aircraft.
The Air Force has planned to divest its aging A-10 inventory for more than a decade. Discussions have been ongoing among Idaho National Guard leaders, and local, state, and federal officials since 2012. Then, the Idaho Air National Guard was notified that their A-10 fleet was identified for divestment by 2015. However, events in Southwest Asia at the time extended the aircraft’s relevance just as the 124th FW embarked on the largest deployment in its history the following year. The 124th FW deployed again in 2020 marking its second largest deployment.
This modernization will better align the Air Force to support the current National Defense Strategy by leveraging the 124th FW’s existing fighter aircraft operations and maintenance expertise once the A-10s at Gowen Field are retired, beginning in the fall of 2026.
“Deterrence is a critical aspect of the National Defense Strategy,” said Brig. Gen. Tim Donnellan, commander of the Idaho Air National Guard. “Today’s near-peer adversaries like Russia and China remind us it’s imperative to ensure our personnel are trained and proficient with the best equipment and tools necessary to fight and win our nation’s wars.”
The Idaho National Guard expects a more detailed timeline from the Air Force in the coming months that will outline the next steps, such as the completion of an environmental impact analysis, planned for the spring of 2025.
The Idaho Air National Guard has been a fixture of the community since 1946. Since then, Idaho National Guard pilots have transitioned through 9 different types of fighter aircraft. With each new aircraft, the organization modifies its noise abatement procedures to minimize the impacts of jet noise on the community.
“Idaho National Guardsmen are rooted in every community in the state,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak, adjutant general of Idaho. “When we are called upon, it’s your friends, families and neighbors coming together to support our community and our nation. Being good stewards of our environment is a priority and we will ensure Boise continues to be one of the most livable cities in the country, regardless of the aircraft we operate.”
Monday’s announcement from the Secretary of the Air Force would mean the continued viability of the Idaho National Guard. With more than $650 million dollars in annual economic impact coupled with nearly 8,000 jobs the Idaho National Guard creates, securing a follow-on fighter mission is a critical part of ensuring Idaho’s prosperity.
When Kadyn Edwards was a freshman, she was feeling mentally down, failing some of her classes and wanting to turn her life around. Thinking “why not?” she registered for a new class at her high school, not knowing then it would change her life.
“I started taking the class because I was going through a lot at home and school, and just wanted to make a positive change,” said Edwards. “I ended up having an awesome experience and wouldn’t have made it this far without it. Now, I’m earning straight As in all my classes and was just accepted into college.”
The 11th grader at Twin Falls High School is one of nearly 200 ninth through 12 grade students at three high schools to participate in the Idaho Army National Guard-sponsored, and school-facilitated, Military Leadership program each year.
The program offers curriculum similar to Junior ROTC without the federal funding. Like JROTC, the program teaches students about military values, leadership, teamwork, discipline, physical fitness, drill and ceremonies, customs and courtesies and more.
It also uniquely offers students opportunities to serve communities through philanthropy projects, as well as experience military training and career opportunities with Idaho Army National Guard units during drill weekends.
Instructor Staff Sgt. Sarah Pak said Edwards is one example of how the program helps students improve their high school experiences, while also preparing them for their futures. In May, Edwards will complete her third year in Military Leadership, while also graduating high school one year early. After graduation, she plans to study criminal psychology at the College of Southern Idaho.
“The stressors of school can be a lot for kids to handle,” said Pak. “They are trying to figure out who they are and evolve into confident individuals ready to embark on the rest of their lives. I’ve seen this program help so many of them find their ways, even those who aren’t interested in the military, because it gives them somewhere to belong and something to be part of.”
Previously called Military Science, the program was first introduced at Mountain Home High School approximately 20 years ago and was later offered at Twin Falls High School in 2019 and at Canyon Ridge High School in 2021. In August, the Idaho Army National Guard will expand the program to Idaho Falls High School at the request of the school and is currently working to offer the program in Pocatello and northern Idaho.
“I’ve gotten a lot of support from the Idaho Guard and school districts that have really helped me grow the program in the last few years,” said Pak. “They’ve seen the positive impact it has had, not only on students and their families, but also their communities, the economy and Idaho.”
The classes are taught by Idaho Guardsmen who serve as full-time instructors of the program and who have earned their credentialing, approved by the Idaho State Board of Education, through the Army Basic Instructor Course on Gowen Field. They also meet school district requirements, including background checks and drug testing evaluations.
Command Sgt. Maj. Alice Randolph unofficially began her career in the U.S. Army when she was just 10 years old.
“My brother came back from basic training and taught us drill and ceremony, took us running with him and taught us inappropriate cadence,” said Randolph. “When I turned 17, neither of us hesitated when he said he was taking me to the recruiting office.”
Throughout childhood, her family home was a revolving door of foster system children. She recalls her brother, instead of playing “Simon Says,” leading “Drill Sergeant Says,” in which he’d teach her and their foster brothers and sisters cadence and facing movements.
Now, 34 years later, Randolph serves as the senior enlisted leader of the Idaho National Guard. While she chooses not to dwell on this fact, she is the first female in the organization to hold the position.
“If being the first female lets us stop talking about firsts, then that will mean something,” said Randolph. “This isn’t about me; it’s about showing Soldiers they have opportunities. I am honored to have been selected for the position based on my abilities and will do my best for the Soldiers and Airmen in our organization.”
Randolph enlisted into the Army Reserve in Nebraska as a medic in 1989. She moved to Idaho in the early 1990s to join the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team’s Charlie Company, 145th Brigade Support Battalion.
She deployed to Iraq in 2004 with the company as an acting platoon sergeant. In 2010, she became the senior medical noncommissioned officer in charge of the IDARNG Medical Detachment.
Shortly after becoming Charlie Company’s first sergeant in 2014, Randolph participated in the 2015 Army’s Best Medic Competition. They were the competition’s first-ever, all-female team to participate and the Guard’s only team to compete that year.
“I’ve never striven to be in positions of higher-responsibility, only to use the positions I’d been placed in to better the organization,” said Randolph. “I would like to think I always had the organization in mind as I focused on doing my best in the position I was in at the time.”
As a part of the 116th CBCT, Randolph completed rotations at the National Training Center in 2015 as Charlie Company’s first sergeant and in 2019 as the 145th BSB’s CSM. She was Charlie Company’s first female 1SG and the battalion’s first female CSM. She was also the first female CSM to serve in the brigade.
In 2020, she served as the 204th Regional Training Institute’s command sergeant major until her selection as the IDNG’s senior enlisted leader.
As senior enlisted leader, she will serve the Idaho National Guard’s enlisted members by communicating directly with the state’s commanding general on their behalf and interpreting National Guard Bureau policy for implementation across the organization.
Though her brother left the service as her career was only beginning, his advice continues to inspire her. As an exchange student in Brazil, Randolph’s brother sent her a letter with a quote from Teddy Roosevelt. She’s held onto it and embodied it throughout her career:
“Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.”
Beads of sweat dripped down her face and collected at the bottom of her mask. Her firefighting suit and breathing apparatus were heavy and weighed her down. She crawled forward and pulled the 175-pound “dummy” another 20 feet. It was her third and final drag of the fire victim removal evaluation with only minutes left to complete the task.
“I just knew in my heart that firefighting was what I was meant to do,” said Idaho Army National Guardsman Pfc. Bailey Craig. “I didn’t give myself any other choice than to get through the evaluation and, ultimately, the academy.”
The evaluation is known by students and instructors as the hardest physical part of the fire academy, especially for a small woman like Craig who is 5 feet, 6 inches tall and 130 pounds.
“I heard the academy had a high fail rate and that females don’t really make it,” said Craig. “Everyone I met up to that point said, ‘you’re not really big, the dummies are and that’s going to be tough for you.’ I went into it with the mindset that I’m going to do it because there really is no other option.”
Craig, who joined the Idaho Guard in October 2021, passed the evaluation on her first attempt. She later became a class leader and graduated from the academy in December 2022. She now serves in the Idaho Army National Guard’s 937th Engineer Detachment and is the unit’s first female to earn the 12M firefighter military occupational specialty.
“I wasn’t aware that I was the unit’s first female qualified 12M firefighter until I got back from training,” said Craig. “I hope I’m not the last one. I hope I’m the first of several. It was tough but I got here, and if I can, then other females can too.”
The 68-day academy, located at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, is the only Department of Defense basic firefighting training academy in the country. During her training there, Craig learned basic firefighting fundamentals and earned certifications in airport firefighting, hazardous materials awareness, emergency medical response and more.
She said the course was fun, however, physically and mentally challenging.
“Prayer was big for me and going out there every day with a positive mindset,” said Craig. “I watched a lot of my friends fail out through the course and by the end of it, I was very used to being one of a few, if not the only, females left.”
In February, Craig attended her first training with the 937th Engineer detachment, where she met fellow Guardsman and learned to fine-tune some of the firefighting skills she picked up in the academy.
“Already after a few days at my first drill, I learned so much to help me become a better firefighter,” said Craig. “I’ve gotten a lot of hands-on training, like how to hold the fire hose nozzle a certain way for my weight. That’s a big one for me since I’m not very big myself. I’m having to learn things the way everyone else does but then tweak them a little to work for me because of my size.”
Despite her size, Craig said she became stronger in the academy, which helps her meet the physical demands of the job. Hard labor is something Craig said she is used to, having grown up working on her family’s ranch in Melba.
Born and raised in Melba, Craig spent her days working on the ranch, while also training horses, completing high school online and enjoying the outdoors.
After earning her high school diploma in 2020, Craig enrolled into the College of Western Idaho, where she is currently studying animal veterinary science. After she completes her associate’s program in May, Craig plans to study fire science and get a full-time job as a civilian firefighter.
“I’m looking forward to continuing to learn all different types of techniques in my Guard unit to help me become a better firefighter overall,” said Craig. “The guys here just know so much and are so helpful. I hope to become part of their family and a valuable member of their team, so I’m someone they can trust in any situation.”
Soldiers from the German Army’s 6th Battery of the Artillery Battalion 345 joined forces with A-10 Thunderbolt II pilots assigned to the 124th Fighter Wing’s 190th Fighter Squadron Feb. 11 to 22, to conduct close air support training at Saylor Creek Range, Idaho.
“The 190th Fighter Squadron supports and encourages this training so we are prepared and familiar with our NATO counterpart’s tactics, techniques, and procedures,” said Lt. Col. Mike “Jack” Hampton, 190th Fighter Squadron commander. “The training also enables us to establish lasting relationships that we can rely on during times of war.”
The visiting soldiers from Idar-Oberstein, Germany, consisted of joint terminal attack controllers, who coordinate, integrate and direct the actions of combat aircraft engaging in close air support operations, and joint fire observers, who augment JTACs by relaying target data. The unit has trained in Idaho annually since 2016.
“The 190th accepts us here, dedicates training to us and improves our tactical training,” said a JTAC instructor from the German Army. “They honor our unit, and I am very proud in the trust that they set in us.”
The joint training between the Idaho Air National Guard and German forces incorporated NATO TTPs utilizing A-10 aircraft to prosecute targets ranging from armor, artillery, bunkers, revetments, aircraft, simulated enemy combatants, moving targets, surface to air threats and more.
“All of these target sets are incorporated into one training range, which delivers unmatched training compared to anywhere else in the world,” said Hampton. “Each training mission is complex and detailed to mirror any future conflicts in or around the European Theater but can also be used in any region of the world.”
Located approximately 43 miles southeast of Gowen Field, Saylor Creek Range offers an impact area three miles wide by six miles long, where air and ground assets can employ live munitions. A joint fires platoon sergeant with the German Army said the training site is unlike anything they have in Germany.
“In Germany, our soldiers never get into realistic situations like they do in Idaho because of training restrictions,” said the platoon sergeant. “Here you can be 500 meters away while a 2,000-pound bomb is flying off the jet. It helps our soldiers to see live munitions hit their targets because then they know what they say to pilots really matters.”
On the range, the German soldiers rehearsed various training scenarios to refine their procedures while both forces worked to hone their joint communication.
Later this year, members of the 124th Fighter Wing will deploy to Germany in support of Air Defender 2023.
Idaho National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, as well as active duty counterparts joined forces with a one-team, one-fight mentality for joint training during a mass casualty exercise on Feb. 4 near Gowen Field.
“The best way to grow our mindset of becoming more operational and ready for a deployed environment is to train with the nearby resources, such as the Idaho Army National Guard and our active duty counterparts,” said Senior Master Sgt. Virginia Holmgren, a respiratory therapist from the Idaho Air National Guard’s 124th Medical Group. “Forming relationships with the other branches helps us to become familiar with each other’s capabilities and to practice working together because when we are in a deployed environment we will be working with the other branches in the fight.”
Medical personnel from Gowen Field’s 124th Medical Group and active duty medical personnel with the 366th Medical Group from Mountain Home Air Force Base teamed up for several mass casualty events, which also included the use of medevac Soldiers and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the Idaho Army National Guard’s 1st of the 168th Aviation Regiment to participate in the medical evacuation scenarios.
“This exercise is a great example of how the Idaho National Guard is committed to the joint warfighting doctrine in support of the National Defense Strategy,” said Brig. Gen. Tim Donnellan, Idaho Air National Guard commander. “The 124th Medical Group coordinated this incredible training using combat proven units from the Idaho Army National Guard, the Idaho Air National Guard, and the Gunfighters of the 366th Fighter Wing.”
During the scenarios, combat medics performed treatment and stabilized casualties at a field medical tent in a simulated deployed location. The focus for the combat medics during the mass casualty scenarios was an emphasis on Tactical Combat Casualty Care. The TCCC is the military guideline for trauma life support in pre-hospital combat medicine, designed to reduce preventable deaths while continuing to maintain operation success.
“With our new DoD guidelines for the TCCC, it requires us to have more hands-on deck and for more Airmen to be familiar with trauma care in responding to worse injuries out on the field rather than the typical self aid and buddy care that we have focused on in the past,” said Senior Master Sgt. Davis Nguyen, the 124th Medical Group Function Area Manager.
Once medics respond and stabilize casualties, they could then recognize the patients that needed more advanced critical care at a hospital outside of the combat field location and the 9-Line medevac call requesting the Black Hawk medevac team was made. In combat, the 9-Line is an emergency medevac request with an accurate report of combat injuries that is often the difference between life and death.
The ground combat medics and the Black Hawk flight medics worked together to stabilize the casualty during flight until they reached the simulated higher echelon of medical care.
Additional scenarios required protective gear to be worn during a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear event while Idaho National Guard Soldiers conducted hoist rescue training, allowing Airmen the chance to gain insight into a full range of rescue capabilities of the medevac Soldiers.
“I am proud of the commitment of the men and women in this joint, total force exercise demonstrating the incredible talent and the first class training capabilities we have here in Idaho,” said Donnellan. “We will continue to maintain our readiness for the immediate fight while preparing for any conflicts of the future.”
The rural town of Firth held a large Veteran’s Day assembly in Eastern Idaho on Nov. 10th, inviting hundreds of attendees, including Idaho’s adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak.
The assembly honored more than 100 local veterans and their families with help from more than 600 local and surrounding town volunteers, students, teachers and administrators. The assembly was held at Firth High School. The population of the small town is just shy of 600 people, according to the latest United States Census Bureau.
Four Soldiers from the Idaho National Guard’s 148th Field Artillery Regiment posted the flags. Local veterans of all branches and current service members were recognized at the assembly and presented with plaques and roses. Garshak spoke at the assembly about the importance of patriotism.
“Those of us in the military in Idaho are fortunate to serve in a state that truly honors and appreciates military service, and nowhere more so than here in Eastern Idaho,” said Garshak.
He continued. “While Veteran’s Day is an opportunity to thank those who have sacrificed, especially during times of war, where the survival of our nation has hung in the balance, it is also an opportunity to recognize and appreciate the value military service brings to our state, our country and to those who serve.”
Garshak thanked every veteran, past and present, and future veterans, for their service to our nation. He thanked the crowd for their support as well on behalf of the Idaho National Guard and the U.S. military.
Garshak closed his remarks with the takeaway that military service is not all about sacrifice.
“Yes, there are times when it is hard, but that comes with all walks of life,” he said. “I’ve learned that the things we value the most, and bring the greatest reward, are the things that we have worked the hardest for.”
The Idaho Army National Guard welcomed home to Boise, Idaho, nearly 100 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team Soldiers on Nov. 4th after a yearlong deployment to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Spartan Shield. An additional 100 other Soldiers returned to their communities elsewhere across the state throughout the day.
“These Soldiers embody what the National Guard is all about: citizen-Soldiers who serve their nation when called upon and return home to their families and communities,” said Brig. Gen. Farin Schwartz, commander, Idaho Army National Guard. “It’s an honor to welcome these Soldiers home and I thank each one of them for their service and dedication to our state and nation. For 10 months, our Soldiers deterred enemy aggression in a very hostile environment, symbolizing our nation’s commitment to our global partners and allies.”
The Soldiers deployed in November 2021 to support the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team’s Task Force Griz, which was headquartered by the Montana Army National Guard and included Soldiers from the Idaho, Montana, Florida and Nevada Army National Guards.
Idaho Soldiers comprised nearly 20 percent of the task force, which spent 10 months overseas, in addition to receiving 45 days of training stateside before deploying.
OSS is a joint mission under the United States Central Command and is part of Operation Enduring Freedom. The task force provided three mission response forces to the CENTCOM commander and conducted missions and training exercises in Iraq, Jordan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria and Qatar.
The task force conducted security and stability operations and demonstrated the U.S.’s continued commitment to deterring adversaries while supporting regional allies. The task force was relieved in October by another 116th CBCT-led task force, including more than 600 Idaho Soldiers, who are expected to return next year.
Task Force Griz Soldiers began returning to Fort Bliss, Texas, Oct. 24 and conducted demobilization activities before returning home.
The 116th CBCT previously deployed in support of the Global War on Terror in 2004 and 2010 to Iraq.