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Top Gun Pilot has the Salute in her sights

By Mike Myers

Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company of Idaho

On August 5, 2011, Taliban fighters engaged a group of Army Rangers 60 miles southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan. Soon after, two Chinook helicopters departed from a U.S. airbase in Bagram with SEAL Team Six onboard to assist the Rangers. The first helicopter headed for the landing zone with 38 U.S. and allied service members aboard, unaware that Taliban fighters had climbed onto an open-air roof. The fighters shot multiple rocket-propelled grenades at the Chinook; the second shot successfully hit the helicopter. All 38 personnel aboard were killed, making it the worst single-incident loss of American lives since World War II.

"It took days for the ground personnel to secure the area and recover all the remains," recalled Priscilla Giddings, an MC-12 [an Air Force surveillance aircraft] pilot from White Bird, Idaho, in her book, "Curiously Strong, A Female Fighter Pilot's Story of Developing Strength. "During that time, MC-12s provided continuous coverage from above. Under my lead, our MC-12 crew provided a total of 12 hours of over-watch for friendly forces during assault operations aimed at finding and prosecuting enemies in the area. Words can't describe the feelings that ran through me as I recounted talking to many of those same fallen SEALS on the radio just days before that tragic event. Those were some of the worst hours I have ever spent at the controls of an airplane."

Giddings spent a total of nine years on active duty in the Air Force including three combat deployments to Afghanistan where she served as a mission commander for the MC-12 Liberty program. She also accumulated nearly 1,000 combat flight hours and was awarded nine air medals.

Raised in White Bird, Idaho, Priscilla "Altoid" Giddings graduated as the student body president and valedictorian of Salmon River High in Riggins. As a teenager, she set several powerlifting world records. She was recruited for the track and field program at the United States Air Force Academy where she graduated with a B.S. in Biology. During pilot training, she was selected to fly the A-10 "Warthog" fighter aircraft, and was the only pilot in her class to receive the Air Force's "Top Gun" award for weapons employment precision.

Giddings currently serves as an Idaho State legislator representing District 7 and still serves in the Air Force Reserves as a Squadron Lead for Admission Liaisons for the Air Force Academy and ROTC. In 2018, Giddings was awarded Idaho's "Woman Veteran of the Year" award. She and her husband, Matt, live in White Bird with their two daughters.

When she was approached about being this year's "Salute to Idaho Veterans" guest speaker, Giddings said, "I feel humbled to be included with those you have had speak in the past; I feel that their actions and accomplishments go far beyond my own."

This year's "Ninth Annual Farm Bureau Salute to Idaho Veterans" will take place on Friday, November 8, at the Farm Bureau home offices in Pocatello. The event is free for veterans and current Armed Services personnel. The "Salute" will feature a meet and greet, flag ceremony, Posting of the Colors, Giddings' presentation, a luncheon, slide show, free portrait photos for the veterans, and a complimentary gift.

The Salute is a prelude to the longstanding traditions that local Veterans Service Organizations have carried out each year on November 11, and is Farm Bureau's way of saying "thank you" to local veterans and current Armed Services personnel for their service to our country.

If you would like an invitation to mail or email to a veteran, please contact Mike Myers at  Invitations are not required for attendance.