SIOUX CITY | The 185th Air Refueling Wing passed a recent rigorous Air Force inspections with flying colors. 

Col. Larry Christensen, the wing commander, said 20 Air Force inspectors came to the Iowa Air National Guard base in Sioux City last week and analyzed the 185th's level of readiness if called into the line of duty at a moment's notice. 

"These inspections are really important, because that’s when the big decision makers decide which units stay alive and which ones don’t," Christensen said in an interview Wednesday.

The 185th has been preparing for the visit since the Air Force implemented a new inspection system 2 1/2 years ago. Instead of having a large group of inspectors come at one time, the Air Force mandated each unit must have an Inspector General on site to keep the group at the highest possible readiness level everyday. 

The unit, which has about 950 full and part-time members, has eight KC-135 Stratotanker refueling tankers, which can each hold 30,000 gallons of fuel.

The unit's Inspector General, Lt. Col. Scoop Latimer, said the inspectors came out and watched the processes the unit goes through during various scenarios, and provided feedback.

"It was an excellent educational tool for my team, and they were very, very, impressed with what they saw," Latimer said. 

The big thing the inspectors were impressed with by the 185th, was their open lines of communication across rank, Latimer said. 

"People don't like to tell their commanders or bosses they are having problems in the air," Latimer said. "They were interested in the fact that we have open lines of communication, where a young airman can come say, 'Hey, I think I can do this better if I can do this.' And then the commander gives him the latitude, or her the latitude to say, 'Hey try it out and see if it works."

The inspectors gave some minor recommendations on how the unit can improve their readiness, but Latimer is on top of it.

"We already lined up our next round for next week," Latimer said about the implementation of the recommendations. The next Air Force inspection is set for 2018. 

"My folks worked really, really hard and I couldn’t be prouder of them," Christensen said. "Putting this whole thing together, from the (IG) team to everybody out there that participated, they put on a heck of a lot of work and they did a great job. I couldn’t be happier, prouder of being with the 185th Air Refueling Unit."

The 185th's main mission is to refuel planes-- while in the air-- for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and NATO. They are "involved in everything you see on TV, whether it has to do with Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, too many to mention," Christensen said. 

In a constant rotation, the 185th has an aircraft with 20 unit members in Qatar, and one just returned from Estonia. A couple of aircraft are scheduled to leave for Guam in a few months, he said.  


Crime and general assignment reporter

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