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Take the time to get to know the area you live in

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- After my Dad retired from the Air Force, we moved to Mackay, which is a small town in central Idaho. It was a great place to grow up and enjoy all of the things Idaho has to offer. After college in Pocatello, I joined the Marine Corps and spent about ten years on the east coast.

While in the Marines, I didn't always like where I was stationed, but I realized that if I took the time to see what was around me, I could find enjoyable things to do and new places to visit. I also enjoyed getting to know the locals and finding out we're all pretty much the same no matter where we live.

When I would come home on leave and drive through Mountain Home, I would often wonder what people stationed at Mountain Home thought about Idaho. Did they realize the endless recreational activities that surround them? Did they leave the base and explore the beauty of the alpine lakes and snow covered peaks in central Idaho? Did they know about the rivers, streams, rolling farmland and tree-covered mountains in northern Idaho? Did they know that 99.9 percent of the people in the state love the military and get chills when they see a military aircraft doing a low level over their heads?

I am just as guilty as anyone else of ignoring my surroundings and not taking the time to enjoy what God has created. I grew up less than half an hour away from Mount Borah, Challis National Forest, Idaho, and I just climbed it for the first time last weekend. When I left the Marine Corps and joined the Air National Guard in Boise, I would tell people where I was from, and they'd ask how many times I'd climbed Mount Borah. I was embarrassed to tell them I'd never taken the time to climb it. People drive many hours to do the climb, and I never did even though it was in my own back yard.

After the climb, I spent the rest of the weekend camping with my family in the mountains between Mackay and Sun Valley. We were camped next to a stream with a view of snow-covered peaks towering over 11,000 feet. No campgrounds, no reservations -- we just found a spot we liked and set up camp. I wondered if the people stationed at Mountain Home took the opportunity to enjoy what surrounds them.

To be honest, most people in Idaho think of Mountain Home as a place to get gas on the way to Boise or maybe a place to take in an air show. I have often looked out over the vast desert and said to myself, "I sure am glad I don't live there." After having the opportunity to tour our radar sites on the Mountain Home range complex, I began to notice the beauty of the desert. Have you ever seen the Bruneau River canyon, the wildflowers in the spring, or noticed all of the different terrain features and wildlife in the desert? I never had.

Take the time to get to know more about Idaho; stop in the small towns and get a burger and let them know what you do. Get out and enjoy the mountains, lakes, rivers and deserts. When the snow starts flying, go skiing, snowshoeing or snowmobiling. When you do get out, remember to take all of the precautions to make sure you return safely. Make the most of the opportunities you have here or wherever the Air Force takes you. If you enjoy what you do and enjoy where you live, you will be a much better asset to the Air Force and those that work around you.