MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho --
It's no secret that Mountain Home and the nearby base share more than just a name. Anything that affects one almost invariably affects the other.
Early next year, Mountain Home's mayor, Tom Rist, will step down to pave the way for new leadership.
"[Rist] couldn't have been more supportive as the Mayor of Mountain Home than he has been, in my opinion," said Dave Bergh, Mountain Home Military Affairs Committee chairman.
Looking around his office, Rist's affection for the 366th Fighter Wing and military in general are apparent. A rack of challenge coins, model fighter jets and other trinkets line the walls, making the office seem more like that of a military commander than a local mayor.
Rist has many fond memories visiting the base. The camaraderie and friendship left an impact on him, especially as those people left for other duty stations.
"You get to know the people really well [at the base], and probably the most difficult part of all that is you have good friends," he said. "I just wasn't used to having that type of relationship with somebody and then having them just leave."
Among all his memories, Rist remembers flying in an F-15E Strike Eagle the most.
"I had been in office for probably a month, maybe less and we were at a function ... and [the wing commander at the time] asked me if I had ever ridden in a jet," he said. "That was probably one of the most exciting things I've ever done in my life. I'll never forget that experience."
"And also, I don't know that I've ever been that sick," he chuckled.
It wasn't just a joy ride with a queasy ending though. During his experience, working with life support technicians and seeing maintenance airmen and aircrew prepare the jet for flight gave him a deeper understanding of what Gunfighters do each and every day. He said he saw how it wasn't a "one-man operation," but rather a team effort.
While his eight-year stint as mayor helped him better understand the base mission, being around the airmen of the 366th FW wasn't new to Rist. He grew up in Mountain Home after he and his parents moved there in 1958, and saw much of the wing's history, including the genesis of Air Force Appreciation Day.
"I can remember the very first Air Force Appreciation Day," Rist said. "It was fairly good-sized then, nothing like what it's grown into now, but it was a big event."
Rist also saw how Mountain Home AFB responded to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. He was a city councilman at the time.
"One of the very first phone calls we made was to Mountain Home AFB," he said. "Mountain Home, particularly the people who have lived here a number of years such as myself, realize much more ... what our military does for us and how they keep us safe."
During his mayorship, Rist worked to help the base by traveling to Washington D.C. and Virginia to meet with lawmakers and military leadership to advocate base interests.
"The relationship we have with Mountain Home is unique within the Air Force," said Col. David Iverson, 366th FW commander. "Mayor Rist has been a critical part to helping the wing accomplish its mission by fostering public support and trust."
No gesture was too big, too small -- or too outlandish -- as the Republic of Singapore's 428th Fighter Squadron learned during a MAC-sponsored squadron event.
"We hosted a squadron day for the 428th [FS] and we had a dunk tank out there that the 428th folks had brought in," Bergh said. "We held a little impromptu option to benefit the MAC committee, and if we could raise $1,000, the Mayor would assume the position in the dunk tank."
The committee was successful, and dunked a reluctant, but willing Rist. However, the Singaporean trainees' leaders were worried the squadron had offended him.
"We assured them it was perfectly alright that the mayor was more than agreeable to it, but they were quite concerned that the squadron had dunked the Mayor," Bergh said. "We all got a chuckle out of that."
As his term ends, Rist wishes Mayor Elect Rich Sykes luck and the 366th FW a fond farewell.
"It has been an absolute honor and a pleasure to interact with [the Gunfighters] and be out to their functions," Rist said. "I don't have enough compliments in me to tell the 366th [FW], the Air Force in general, how proud I am of them and what a great privilege it's been to be mayor of a community where they're located."