The 185th Air Refueling Wing
2920 Headquarters Ave
Sioux City, Iowa 51111
History of The Iowa National Guard
The concept of the Citizen-Soldier emerges as the shopkeepers, fishermen, and farmers took up arms to defend the Massachusetts Bay Colony at Salem, Massachusetts in 1636 as Colonial Organized Militia. They also fought alongside the King’s regulars in King William’s War (1689-97), Queen Anne’s War (1701-13), King George’s War (1744-48) and the French and Indian War (1745-63).
The National Guard has grown into an integral part of today’s military, with units all over the country filled with citizen-soldiers protecting American Freedom. Guard units can look back over a long, proud history. Whether it’s the 182nd Infantry Regiment of the Massachusetts National Guard that can trace its ancestry back to the Colonial Organized Militia of 1636, or the 185th Air Refueling Wing that traces its lineage back to the 386th Fighter Squadron in 1943, each unit has a rich, deep history.
The 185th Air Refueling Wing of the Iowa Air National Guard is located in America’s heartland at Sioux Gateway Airport/Colonel Bud Day Field in Sioux City, Iowa.
The unit was established in December 1946. The Army Air Force’s 386th Fighter Squadron was activated in 1943 and flew P-47 Thunderbolts. This unit was inactivated in 1945, re-designated the 174th Ftr Sq (FS) and allocated to the Iowa National Guard on May 24, 1946. On December 2nd of that same year, the 174th was extended Federal recognition and equipped with P-51 Mustangs. The 174th is still the flying squadron at the 185th Air Refueling Wing. The initial component of the unit included 9 rated officers, 7 non-rated officers, and 46 enlisted members for a total of 62 members. Today, the 185th consists of nearly 1,000 traditional and full-time military members as well as over 300 air technicians and state contract employees.
The 174th flew the P-51 “Mustang” for three years. In 1949-50, the unit received its first jet, the F-84B “Thunderjet.” The squadron was called to active duty on April 1, 1951 for service during the Korean conflict and moved to Dow AFB, Bangor, Maine. Most jet pilots transferred to USAF units in Europe and the Far East and the squadron was re-equipped with the F-51D. The unit finished their tour and was transferred back to state control on December 31, 1952. In July 1953, the unit converted from the F-51D to the Lockheed F-80C “Shooting Star.”
In 1955, the 174th FS was re-designated the 174th Fighter Interceptor Squadron and was transitioned to the F-84E “Thunderstreak.” As a component of the 132nd Fighter Interceptor Wing, the unit won the ANG Gunnery Meet. They also placed third in the USAF Fighter Weapons meet that year. For their accomplishments, the 174th was awarded the Spaatz Trophy as the most outstanding Air National Guard squadron in the nation in 1956. The accolades did not stop there as the unit also was awarded the Wing Flying Safety trophy that year as well.
In 1958, the unit changed aircraft and its primary mission, becoming the 174th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron and flying the RF84F “Thunderflash.” As a reconnaissance unit, the 174th was awarded the top “Operational Readiness Reconnaissance Unit” in the nation in 1960. In 1961, the unit was re-designated the 174th Tactical Fighter Squadron and converted to flying the F-100C “Super Sabre.”
On October 1, 1962, the unit was reorganized and re-designated as the 185th Tactical Fighter Group, nearly doubling the authorized personnel to over 800 officers and airmen. This era would also mark the longest continuous period of flying one aircraft. The 185th flew the F-100 from 1961 until 1977, a period of 16 years.
On January 26, 1968, the 185th was recalled to active Federal service as a result of the “Pueblo Crisis.” The 174th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 185th, augmented by many of the other personnel from the Group, deployed with their F-100s to Phu Cat, Vietnam on May 11, 1968. During the course of the next 90 days, the balance of the 185th was deployed to six military bases in Korea and several others within the continental United States.
During their year in Vietnam, the 174th flew 6,539 combat sorties totaling 11,359 hours of combat time. One pilot was killed in action and two airmen were killed on active duty. The unit was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation and the Air Force Outstanding Unit award. Individually, its members were awarded 12 silver stars, 35 distinguished flying crosses, 30 bronze stars, 115 commendation medals, 325 air medals, and 1 purple heart. On May 28, 1969 the personnel and aircraft recalled with the 185th were returned to Sioux City and released from active duty. In addition, the 174th Fighter Squadron won the Outstanding Unit award with a designation of valor.
Vietnam also spawned our nickname “The Bats”. The “Bat” depicted on the tails of the aircraft and the shoulder patch of the pilots became a legendary symbol of the 185th when the 174th Tactical Fighter Squadron was called to active duty in Vietnam. “Bat” was the call sign of the 174th, and the “Bats” became renowned for their outstanding performance. Day or night, the members of the 174th could be counted on to do the job.
The 185th converted to the A-7D “Corsair” in 1977. While flying the A-7s, the unit won the Spaatz trophy for the second time in 1990, recognizing them as the best Air Guard unit in the country. The Unit also was awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit award five times – 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989, and 1991. In addition, the 185th Logistics Group is a two-time winner of the Daedalian Trophy which recognizes the best maintenance team in the ANG. In 1989, the unit won the 12th Air Force A-7 gunnery meet for the second time, and the 185th received the Gunsmoke A-7 Maintenance Team Award for its aircraft.
National attention focused on the unit in 1989 when United Airlines Flight 232, flown by a crew led by Captain Al Haynes, was forced to crash land at the Sioux City Airport. With its key role in the crash recovery and rescue of survivors in the crash, the 185th was credited with helping save numerous lives and showed the nation the true heart of Siouxland and the unit.
On December 19, 1991, the 185th received its first F-16s. The 185th Tactical Fighter Group was re-designated the 185th Fighter Group on March 16, 1992, and was rated operational on April 15th of that year. As the Air Guard standardized its structure, the 185th was designated the 185th Fighter Wing. The F-16 “Fighting Falcon” would be the last single-seat fighter jet that the unit would fly before the conversion to KC135 tankers in 2003.
The 185th continues to be an award-winning unit. In 1994, the unit picked up the Winston P. Wilson Award as well as the Air Force Association Outstanding Air National Guard Unit Award. In 1999, Congress appropriated $6.5 million dollars for the Air National Guard Aircraft Paint Facility located on base. The facility at the 185th has become top-notch, reflecting the quality of work that has been synonymous with the unit for over 50 years.
Beginning with our active duty foundation during World War II, the involvement in Korea and Vietnam, and our present day missions, which include Operation Provide Comfort, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the 185th has always had a history of stepping up to the task. With deployments to Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Curacao, Belgium, Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Denmark, Iraq, England, Italy, Germany, and within the United States, the 185th has consistently been the tip of the sword, leading the way.
Following Desert Storm, the 185th combined forces with the 114th FW Sioux Falls, SD, and the 140th FW Denver, CO, during Operation Provide Comfort in Incirlik, Turkey to provide the necessary relief for active duty forces during Christmas of 1994. This first ever rainbow deployment was so successful it marked the beginning of the transformation of the Air Force to the Expeditionary Air Force with 10 Air Expeditionary Wings.
As we vault into the twenty-first century, the 185th will be converting to a different type of aircraft. For the first time in its 56-year history, the unit will not be flying single seat fighter jets, but will be flying KC-135 refueling tankers. The 185th embraces the challenge of an exciting new role. As an award-winning unit over half a century old, the 185th Air Refueling Wing will continue to reflect the excellence of our past as we perform new real-world missions.

Lieutenant Colonel Morgan Harrison
Major Allen Orr
Major Robert Ruby
Major Rollin Batten Jr.
Colonel Donald Forney
Colonel Warren Nelson
Colonel Dudley Smidt
Colonel Gerald Swartzbaugh
Colonel Dennis Swanstrom
Colonel V. Thomas Considine
Colonel John Janson
December 1946 – September 1947
September 1947 – August 1948
August 1948 – February 1952
February 1952 – December 1952
January 1953 – April 1976
April 1976 – May 1980
May 1980 – October 1983
October 1983 – October 1987
October 1987 – December 1998
December 1998 – August 2001
August 2001 - Present