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NEWS | May 3, 2024

Idaho Air Guard Conducts Panther Shadow Exercise

By Senior Master Sgt. Joshua Allmaras, 124th Fighter Wing

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho - In skies and on the ground in Southern Idaho, military aircraft and personnel trained to fight a near-peer enemy March 25-29 during exercise Panther Shadow.

The exercise included the Idaho Air National Guard’s 266th Range Squadron, the 388th Fighter Wing and 729th Air Control Squadron, both from Hill Air Force Base.

“During this inspector general led exercise, the F-35s from Hill Air Force Base train to go down range,” said Mr. Kevin D. Coats, an air battle manager with the 266 RANS. “This Agile Combat Employment exercise allows the Airmen to train to employ agile basing and combat.”

The role of the RANS is to provide strategic aircraft control of aircraft training in the military airspace that encompasses Idaho, Nevada, and Oregon.

“We get the aircraft handed off from the civilian air traffic control, and we check them into our airspace,” said Coats. “This includes giving them pertinent traffic, weather and other flight conditions. We also are watching to deconflict the airspace with potential civilian aircraft.”

Controlling 10,000 square miles of airspace is just an everyday task for the RANS Cowboy Control team.

“Cowboy control is part of a military radar unit,” said 1st Lt. Chris Christman, an air weapons officer with the 266 RANS. “We control airspace, and during this exercise, we get to learn from other units on how they work. This allows us to see our jobs from a new perspective.”

This military radar unit is the 266 RANS, an Idaho Air National Guard geographically separated unit stationed at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho.

This unit, including Cowboy Control, has a direct impact on combat preparedness.

“The training we do here directly impacts the mission in a real-world training environment,” said Christman. “The training aircrew get here could mean the difference between life and death in an actual combat environment.”

Christman and Coats both said the facilities and range space is one of the big reasons units from all over the world want to train in Idaho. 



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