Over 400 Idaho Air National Guardsmen to deploy for operations in Middle East
By JACOB SCHOLL | The Idaho Statesman | Published: May 12, 2020
BOISE (Tribune News Service) — Over 400 members of the Idaho Air National Guard started deploying Monday to Southwest Asia on their way to support operations in the Middle East and North Africa.
Members of the Guard’s 124th Fighter Wing — based at Gowen Field — are being deployed in support of combat operations, according to a news release from the Idaho Military Division. Those deployed will support three operations: Freedom’s Sentinel, Inherent Resolve and New Normal. The operations include activity in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya.
It’s the second-largest deployment in the wing’s history, according to the release, and it comes at a unique time in world history.
“These past few weeks have been different for all of us. The pandemic has changed all our lives in so many ways,” said Col. Shannon Smith, commander of the 124th. “But what I can tell you about how we do things in the Air National Guard ... is that this is what we train for.”
Smith noted the important role military families serve while acknowledging how the coronavirus altered Monday’s going-away ceremony — social distancing, no families in the hangar — and the deployment preparation.
“If there’s a silver lining, our goal from the beginning of COVID was to ensure mission success and preserve our capability. So we protected these airmen like the national treasure that they are,” Smith said.
Maintenance and medical personnel were deployed Monday, along with aircraft, pilots, security forces and other support staff. Additional personnel will be deployed throughout the spring and summer, but the bulk of the group left Monday. Deployments last around 180 days, with some planned departures.
Those in attendance Monday for the sendoff included Gov. Brad Little — who is commander-in-chief of the Idaho National Guard as sitting governor — as well as Adjutant General of Idaho Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak.
“We recognize the impact this mission will have on our community and we deeply appreciate the sacrifice of Idaho’s service members,” Little said in a news release. “This deployment once again displays the commitment of the 124th Fighter Wing and its members, as well as the dedication demonstrated by the community of families, state and local leaders, neighbors and employers who provide unwavering support to our service members.”