SIOUX CITY — While he has more than 9,000 men and women under his command, Iowa’s top military commander took time out this weekend to bestow special recognition on members of the Sioux City-based 185th Air Refueling Wing.

Maj. Gen. Timothy Orr, the adjutant general of the Iowa National Guard, attended the unit’s military ball Saturday night at the Marina Inn in South Sioux City, which gave him an opportunity to thank local active servicIowa's top military commander: 185th is best air refue members.

Early Sunday morning, Orr handed out commander coins — a reward given to airmen for going above the call of duty — and toured the Iowa Air National Guard base in Sioux City alongside local officials.

“We are a nation that’s been at war for over 15 years,” Orr said. “This unit, the 185th, is the best air refueling wing in the country no doubt in my book. They demonstrate it every day around the world, they demonstrate in the war fight, they demonstrate in the homeland here with the disasters we’ve had with the flooding in 2011 and all the partnerships that they’ve built through the community.”

In his conversations with the media and local officials, including Mayor Bob Scott and Siouxland Chamber of Commerce president Chris McGowan, Orr noted how important the relationship between the community and the 185th is to the area.

“This is one of the best communities in the state of Iowa when it comes to working together with your military,” Orr said. “Something that every citizen in the Siouxland area needs to realize is, we are one of the largest employers — and we are proud of that — but more importantly, it’s our relationship with the community and their support that continues to make this unit strong and able to do their mission.”

Scott backed up Orr’s comments about how vital the relationship between the community and the base is for Sioux City. He also emphasized the economic impact the base makes in the area.

“Between the units here, there’s probably 800 (people) in this unit and a couple hundred across the street, and this unit itself is like $50 million in payroll, I think, so you compound that in the community it’s a big deal,” Scott said.

The 185th is breaking ground this year on a $12.4 million structure that will consolidate three aging facilities into one complex adjoining the Sioux Gateway Airport.

Both Scott and Orr agreed this project was good news for the city and a positive indicator as to the military's future in the city.

“Anytime you have a unit like this invest in the community — and we partnered with them on that particular project — it helps not only our runway for our commercial flights, but it certainly helps this unit sustain and be viable for the future,” Scott said. “We hope that those types of investment by the government mean that they are going to be here for a long time.”

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