For the residents of Mountain Home, Idaho, watching an Air Force fighter jet scream overhead is just a normal part of the day. Nestled in the crook of the small town, stands one of the most sustainable bases in the United States: Mountain Home Air Force Base (MHAFB). Supporting over 6,420 jobs locally, MHAFB is by far the largest employer in the region, and in 2018 they put more than $760 million into the local economy. Additionally, the Airmen at MHAFB, known as Gunfighters, are serving their country through stewardship of the environment, going so far as to look for clean energy coming from inside the planet.
The Gunfighters are in talks with Idaho Power to tap into the vast renewable resource running under MHAFB. Idaho is peppered with hot springs heated by magma flowing under the earth’s crust. A 2020 report proposed tapping the geothermal energy resource underneath MHAFB and detailed the construction of a 15 MW geothermal power plant that would generate 100 percent of the energy needed to power MHAFB from a clean, renewable source while creating several full-time jobs. First Lieutenant Ronald Diaz-Cataldo Ramos, Deputy Flight Chief of the 366th Civil Engineering Flight, shared with The Business Download, “This renewable source would provide MHAFB the ability to be self-sufficient in maintaining resilient, reliable, uninterruptible, and adequate power to meet installation demand for mission-critical facilities and operations year-round without dependence on commercial or backup sources.” Meanwhile, MHAFB is working with the Idaho Government to sustainably source 100 percent of their water from the nearby Snake River.
“It’s every Gunfighter’s responsibility to be a good steward of resources and the environment. MHAFB and the Air Force continue to educate, innovate and refine our environmental conservation practices through a wide variety of proactive programs,” Sheri Robertson, 366th Fighter Wing Chief of Environmental Management, shared with The Business Download. “These include broad, base-wide guidelines to smaller unit-driven initiatives. Our ultimate goal is to reduce our carbon and waste footprint while completing the Wing’s mission.” Another initiative is a green procurement program that states, whenever possible, the team at MHAFB will purchase environment-friendly goods for everything from construction materials to dinnerware. Those investments in eco-friendly products trickle into the local economy as well.
“We’re always looking to improve our recycling capabilities and encourage repurposing by selling used commodities to local businesses,” Mike Wussow, 366th Fighter Wing Environmental Integrated Solid Waste Program Manager, said to The Business Download. “Since 2017, Gunfighter Recycling has earned more than $341,000 in recycled commodities which is reinvested back into our recycling programs.” Everything from spent bullet-casings to ink cartridges are kept out of the landfill. In 2020, Mountain Home recycled over 700 tons of material. Wussow went on to say, “recycling will continue to be a priority because it helps create a more sustainable installation and combat unnecessary landfill pollution.”
The Gunfighters are also well known for working with the community to plant hundreds of trees each year, and through these efforts, Mountain Home won the designation of a Tree City for numerous years in a row. “Along with the rest of the Air Force, Gunfighters have a responsibility to minimize our environmental impact on the local area and promote conservation and rehabilitation efforts through our partnerships with the great people of Mountain Home,” Mr. Hodge Echeverria, 366th Fighter Wing Natural Resources Program Manager, shared with The Business Download. “Trees are an important part of our community and ecosystem because their presence moderates temperature, reduces erosion, lowers energy costs, filters the air, and provides habitat for wildlife, among many other benefits.”