SIOUX CITY | Ten members of 185th Air Refueling Wing leave this weekend on an overseas mission as part of the Air National Guard base's largest  deployment since the Vietnam War.

With around 100 more members scheduled to depart in December or January, the 185th is nearing the projected deployment of 300 members by early 2018.

185th officials announced the most recent deployment on Friday.

"We've had a handful of people going almost weekly," Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot said.

The series of deployments will range from 30 days to six months in numerous locations in the Arabian Peninsula and in the Pacific, 185th Wing Commander Col. Larry Christensen first announced in August. Once that happens, roughly a third of the unit's airmen will be deployed during that time.

The largest segment of the deployments, consisting of nearly 200 members, will join members of the 133rd Test Squadron in Fort Dodge, Iowa, in six-month deployments in the Arabian peninsula, where they will be stationed in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.

Members will include the 185th Construction Engineering Squadron, food services, communications, supply, security forces personnel and members of the Intelligence, Public Affairs, Finance and Chaplain's offices.

The deployments are part of the Air Force’s pre-scheduled deployment period, designated as the units Reserve Component Period. Air National Guard units provide continuous year-round coverage, as needed throughout the Air Force's global areas of responsibility.

Based at Sioux Gateway Airport, the 185th's main mission is to refuel planes-- while in the air-- for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and NATO with KC-135 Stratotanker refueling tankers. The unit has about 950 full and part-time members.

The unit, which traces its roots to 1943 and World War II, flew fighter jets prior to 2003. This fall's deployment is the largest since the unit converted to refueling tankers in 2003, and the largest for the 185th since 1968, when the then-800 member unit was recalled to active duty and deployed to Vietnam with their F-100s jets.

The 185th has had smaller numbers of airmen deployed around the globe on a nearly constant basis in recent years.

This week, eight members of the 185th ARW Security Forces Squadron returned after performing 30 days providing security in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The unit members needed to return to Sioux City in order to prepare for another upcoming overseas deployments.

While in Puerto Rico, they were part of a security detail that protected President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence as they observed the hurricane damage and the U.S. response to the disaster.

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County and education reporter

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