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SIOUX CITY | From the sleek fighter jets to the big fuel tankers, aircraft taking off from the 185th Air Refueling Wing, Iowa Air National Guard, base in Sioux City have been a fixture in Siouxland skies since 1946.
Originally equipped with P-51 Mustangs, the base for years was home to fighter pilots and jets. Pilots and personnel from the base were activated for wars in Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East.
In 2003, the Department of Defense changed the 185th's mission. The fighter jets were gone, and in their place were KC-135 Stratotankers, large aircraft that refuel other aircraft in midair.
The base's role may have changed, but that hasn't meant a change in the role 185th personnel play in military conflicts all over the world. The 185th's eight tankers are rarely all in Sioux City at the same time. At least one tanker and crew is deployed on a mission somewhere in the world at almost all times.
The base also has its own fire department, which provides fire protection for the airfield and Sioux Gateway Airport but has also been called out to assist area fire departments.
The 185th's role in the community is more than the aircraft and equipment located at the base. Its presence has inspired the military careers of countless Siouxlanders, many of whom have wound up serving there.
It is one of Sioux City's largest employers with more than 900 full- and part-time employees, both military and civilian. Many of those workers are mainstays in volunteer organizations throughout the area.
In its annual report, the 185th estimated that in fiscal year 2013, through payroll, value of jobs created, student assistance/incentives and annual expenditures, it had an economic impact of $79.3 million in Siouxland.