The History of the 185th

The concept of the Citizen-Soldier first emerged as the shopkeepers, fisherman, and farmers took up arms to defend the Massachusetts Bay Colony at Salem, MA 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); as well as the French and Indian War (1745-63). Descendents of these regiments still exist as National Guard units today. The militia or minutemen were the true forbearers of today's National Guard. In 1775, the Second Continental Congress formally organized the militias into the overall defense of the country. On April 19th, 1775, 130 minutemen stood their ground against Lord Percy's redcoats during the fight at Concord Bridge. They had begun a long and proud history of service to the nation as fighting citizen-soldiers.

On January 21st, 1903 The Dick Act set the foundations on which today's National Guard is based. For the first time, there was legislation that clearly defined federal guidelines for the National Guard. It provided both state and federal support and stipulated that within five years after the signing of the law the organization, armament, and discipline of the Organized Militia shall be the same as that which is now, or may thereafter be prescribed, for the regular and volunteer armies of the United States. It formalized training, facilities, equipment, and pay. For over 100 years, the National Guard has fought side-by-side with the traditional regulars. 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 our 185th Air Refueling Wing that traces its lineage back to 386th Fighter Squadron in 1943, each unit has a rich and 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, flying P-47 Thunderbolts was activated in 1943 and then deactivated in 1945 at the end of World War II. The unit was subsequently re-designated the 174th Fighter Squadron and allocated to the Iowa National Guard on May 24th, 1946.

The unit was assigned to Sioux City, Iowa at an air base that had been used for B-17 and B-24 bomber training base during World War II. Among its most famous luminary was actor Jimmy Stewart. He completed his pilot training and went on to fly 20 combat missions during the final years of the war. Louis Zamperini also attended his initial aircrew training at the Sioux City Army Airbase. Zamperini was an Olympic athlete turned WWII bombardier who survived 47 days adrift after his B-24 Liberator crashed in the Pacific, only to become a Japanese POW. Zamperini's story was made famous in the book and movie entitled "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand.

Former 174th pilot, Lt. Col. Kelly F. Cook was shot down near Dong Hoa North Vietnam on November 10, 1967 and classified as missing in action until 1976. A veteran of World War II, Cook originally piloted the B-24 Liberator in the European theater. Cook attended pilot training at the Sioux City, Iowa Army Air Corps training base. After the war, Cook returned to Sioux City where he was a pilot with the fledgling 174th Fighter Squadron and was among the unit's first jet fighter pilots in the early 1950’s.  In 1951 Cook and the rest of 174th pilots were part of a massive call up for federal service because of the Korean War. After the unit was released from federal service Cook chose to stay on active duty with the Air Force. Cook completed his undergraduate degree at Notre Dame and earned a master's degree in English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

Cook volunteered for service in Vietnam while he was working as an instructor at the newly organized U.S. Air Force Academy. In Vietnam, Cook was the assistant director of operations for the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing. At the time he went missing, he was pursuing his doctorate degree through the University of Denver and still listed Sioux City, Iowa as his home of record. The pilot's name is engraved on a memorial marker on the grounds of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Even though his remains were never repatriated he was declared killed in action in 1976.

On December 2nd, 1946, the 174th was extended Federal recognition and equipped with P-51 Mustangs. Today, the 174th is still the flying squadron at the 185th Air Refueling Wing, formerly the 185th Fighter Wing. The squadron had flown single seat fighter aircraft since its inception, until the transition to KC-135 Air Refueling tankers in 2003. The original 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 900 members that includes; traditional guardsman, full-time military, air technicians and state contract employees.

For three years, the 174th flew the P-51 "Mustang." 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 in Bangor, Maine. Most jet pilots transferred to USAF units in Europe and the Far East. 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 F-51Ds to Lockheed F-80C "Shooting Star."

IN 1955, the 174th FSB 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. They became the 174th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron and flew 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 F-100C "Super Sabre." On October 1, 1962, the unit reached group status. It was reorganized and re-designated as the 185th Tactical Fighter Group. This reorganization nearly doubled the authorized personnel of the unit 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 26th, 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 11th, 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 totally 11,359 hours of combat time. 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 July 14th, Lieutenant Warren Brown of the 174th was killed in action, becoming the first Air National Guard pilot to die in Vietnam. The 185th also lost two other airmen who were killed on active duty; one from a medical issue, and a second from an accident.

While in Phu Cat, one distinguished Air Force pilot that flew one of our planes was Dick Rutan. Dick went on to become the first pilot to take a non-stop un-refueled trip around the world. In 2005, Mattel toys introduced a die-cast model of the Sioux City based F-100 that Dick Rutan flew in Vietnam, tail # HA 076. Dick was also one of the famous Misty pilots, a top-secret squadron that flew high-risk missions during their tours. Another member of this famous squadron was Medal of Honor recipient Colonel George "Bud" Day, for whom the airfield in Sioux City is named.

As for the 174th, on May 28th, 1969, the personnel and aircraft were recalled with the 185th and returned to Sioux City and released from active duty. In 1969, the 174th Fighter Squadron won the Outstanding Unit award with a designation of valor. Vietnam also spawned the nickname 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 its 174th Tactical Fighter Squadron was called to duty in Vietnam. "Bat" was the call sign of the 174th. The "Bats" became renowned for their outstanding performance.

The other symbol often associated with been the Indian Chief that is part of the unit patch as well as part of the paint work on the aircraft. The Indian Chieftain is symbolic of the brave Indian warriors, like War Eagle, who once lived in the Siouxland area. The pride, courage and determination found in these "First Americans" are traits emulated by the members of the 185th.

In 1977, the 185th converted to the A-7D "Corsair." 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's Logistic Group is a two-time winner of the Daedalian Trophy which recognizes the best maintenance team in the ANG. In 1989, the 185th won the 12th Air Force A-7 gunnery meet for the second time. Also in 1989, the 185th received the Gunsmoke A-7 Maintenance Team Award for its aircraft.

A tragedy caused national attention to be focused on the 185th in 1989. Crippled United Airliner Flight 232, outbound from Denver to Philadelphia via Chicago, and under the guidance of Captain Al Haynes, was forced to crash land at the Sioux City Airport. With one engine out, and its' hydraulic and backups not operating, the pilot could only turn the plane in one direction. With a key role in the crash recovery and rescue of survivors in the crash, the quick efforts of the 185th undoubtedly saved numerous lives and showed the nation the true heart of the unit. A photo of Colonel Dennis Neilson carrying a 2-year old Spencer Baily from the wreckage became a symbol of the heroism and compassion of the unit.

Two years later, the 185th once again changed planes. On December 19th, 1991, they received F-16 Falcons. On March 16th, 1992, the 185th Tactical Fighter Group was re-designated the 185th Fighter Group. One month later, the unit was rated operational. As the Air Force and Air Guard standardized unit structures, the 185th was designated the 185th Fighter Wing. The F-16 "Fighting Falcon" would be the last jet that the unit would fly before conversion to KC135 tankers in 2003. The 185th continued 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.

September 11th, 2001 changed the way we looked at things forever. No longer was American soil considered safe as terrorists hijacked four planes and used them as "flying bombs" to hit vital targets. Two planes hit the World Trade Center twin towers in New York City killing approximately 3,000. A third plane hit the pentagon. A fourth hijacked plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, killing all passengers aboard. The nation's defense sprung into action. All flights were grounded. Air Force One carrying President George W. Bush flew from Florida to Louisiana to Offutt Air Force base in Omaha. On the final leg, two F-16s, flown by 185th pilots Kurt Kindschuh and Tyson Herbold flew cover air support for Air Force One until the crews from Andrews AFB took over for the landing.

As there continues to be turmoil in the world, the 185th Fighter Wing has proudly served wherever needed. From our active duty foundation during World War II, our involvement in Korea and Vietnam, to our present day missions or Operation Provide Comfort and Operation Enduring Freedom, the 185th has consistently been the tip of the sword, constantly leading the way. One of those concepts was the Rainbow, multiple units tasked and seamlessly replacing one another.

The Rainbow concept of units swapping out started during Operation Provide Comfort 10 years ago. The initial trial of this concept included Air Guard units from Sioux Falls, Denver, as well as the 185th. It worked so flawlessly, and so successfully, it has become part of the Air Force Standard. The unit has always been ready to answer the call as it trains for real-world missions. The 185th has always been ready to support all worldwide missions whether it's abroad in Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Curacao, Belgium, Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Denmark, Iraq, England, UAE, Italy, and Germany or in the states.

As the world changes, the missions of the units must adapt and change as well. For the first time in its history, the unit will not be flying single engine jets. The 185th will be flying multi-engine KC-135 refueling tankers. They were re-designated the 185th Air Refueling Wing. In November 2003, the first all Sioux City crew flew a KC-135 out of Sioux City. Within a year, the 185th was flying refueling missions out of Geilenkirchen, Germany supporting NATO AWACS.

Closer to home, the KC-135s of the 185th Air Refueling Wing flew multiple missions transporting troops and supplies in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast region in September 2005. Also during the year, the 185th was also highlighted on the History Channel. As the mission changed the 185th has adapted to those changes, and embraces the challenge of an exciting new role. As an award-winning unit over half a century old, the 185th Air Refueling Wing continues to reflect the excellence of our past as we perform new real-world missions.

In 2007, the 185th began transitioning from KC-135E to KC-135R models, newer planes, with larger engines, capable of more missions, making the 185th a unit ready to serve, whenever and wherever they are needed.

The 185th began 2008 in great fashion when it was announced that the unit earned the Outstanding Unit Award for 2007 for the fifth time and also The Air National Guard Rusty Metcalf Award for Best Heavy Unit. The unit also received no less than an Excellent rating in four major inspections. Many other awards were also earned including the Top Recruiters and Retention Office Manager, 2008 Air National Guard Recruiting and Retention Office of the Year, 2008 Air Mobility Command JAG Office of the Year, and the Services Flight is one of two finalists for the prestigious Air National Guard Disney Award.

The 185th ARW was the first ever ANG tanker unit to integrate with active duty forces at Manas AB, Kyrgyzstan flying 288 combat sorties totaling 1451 hours while offloading a record setting 15.8 million pounds of fuel to 621 receivers. The unit deployed over 30% of its unit members in support of Operations JUMP START, IRAQI FREEDOM, NOBLE EAGLE AND ENDURING FREEDOM. Over 250 unit members deployed to Incirlik, Turkey. Meanwhile, on the home front, Over 600 Airmen deployed throughout the state to support Iowa towns in flood relief efforts.

The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the 185th Air Refueling Wing, the Iowa Air National Guard, the United States Air Force or the Department of Defense of the external website, or information, products, or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Services/Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) sites, the United States Air Force does not exercise editorial control over the information users may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of the website.