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Iowa's 185th Air Refueling Wing at work in Germany with NATO

By Staff Sgt. Daniel Ter Haar | Iowa National Guard | February 24, 2017

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GELIENKIRCHEN AIR BASE, Germany -The Mission of the Air National Guard takes its members all over the world. This month, members of the Iowa Air National Guard's 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City, Iowa, are refueling AWACS while assigned to Gelienkirchen Air Base, Germany.

Approximately 40 members from the 185th ARW are in Germany for two weeks supporting the NATO mission.

The Air Guard is assigned to refuel NATO Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft, a multifaceted radar aircraft that provides surveillance and command and control for NATO areas of responsibility in Western Europe. On board aircraft crews provide communications and control for U.S. and partner nations while also keeping a close eye on adversaries. These missions require long flight times and in-flight refueling provided by Guard units like the 185th is essential for the NATO mission.

According to Royal Netherlands Air Force Capt. André Bongers, a Public Affairs Officer stationed at Gelienkirchen the long standing partnership with the Air Guard is important to maintaining stability in the region.

"This has always been a very successful partnership. During 40 weeks per year the Air Guard provides essential training to the NATO E-3A Component. This is vital because pilots at the E-3A Component normally stay around for only four years. This means that there is a high demand for training to ensure new crewmembers are combat ready. The high level of professionalism and flexibility delivered by the Air Guard is of great importance to get the right amount of training," said Bongers.

Bongers says NATO AWACS are a critical part of many ongoing missions in the region such as counter-ISIS operations, Eastern Europe surveillances and Mediterranean Maritime operations. He said they also fly for high visibility events such as the recent NATO summit in Warsaw and big regional exercises like Red Flag and Arctic Challenge.

According to Lt. Col. Joseph Bosch, the Air National Guard Liaison in Gilenkurchen, the Air Guard has been working with NATO forces since 2015. Bosh says the diversity of individuals in the Guard and variety of experience in KC-135 units brings a unique exposure for "part-time" military, something he says, intrigues European military commanders. Bosch also said that Air Guard brings a level of unmatched experience to refueling operations, especially units like the 185th.

"It is always a pleasure having the 185th. This wing has a special dedication to this mission and shows time and again how much they love our mission here. Sioux City always brings their "A" game to make this special spot better than when they arrived," said Bosch.

The 185th will remain in Germany until the end of the week and will be followed by another Air Guard unit from Topeka, Kansas.