U.S. Senator Joni Ernst visits Fort Dodge, Iowa Air National Guard test facility

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot, 185ARW Wing Public Affairs
  • 185th Air Refueling Wing

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst visited the Iowa Air National Guard facility in Fort Dodge, while at home in Iowa this week.

The Iowa representative and former Iowa National Guard member said this was her first visit to the Air Guard unit. Ernst is visiting Fort Dodge as part of her 99 county tour during 2022. 

Ernst said she wanted to see the Air Guard unit in order to gain a better understanding of the 133rd Test Squadron’s unique mission. During her visit Ernst was given a tour of the facility by Lt. Colonel Jason Kolacia, 133rd TS Squadron Commander.

The 133rd mission primarily involves evaluating communication technologies for the U.S. Air Force.

“It was a wealth of information for me, because I did not know what they did here,” Ernst said.

Ernst, who is on the Senate Armed Service Committee, also listened to a briefing from Lt. Colonel Kolacia, who recently took command of the Fort Dodge component. Kolacia said the 133rd is the only Air National Guard unit that performs testing and evaluation for the Air Force.

The facility in Fort Dodge is surrounded by a patchwork of farm fields along the Des Moines River in central Iowa. The unit is one of three Air Guard locations in the Hawkeye state.

Air National Guard facilities in Iowa also include the 132nd Wing at the Des Moines airport as well as the 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City that serves as the test squadron’s parent Wing.

The test squadron operates out of a number of buildings at their Fort Dodge airport that is bordered by an Iowa National Guard Armory as well as a U.S. Army Reserve Center.

According to Kolacia, the 133rd has around 30 full time employees who take care of day-to-day duties. On drill weekends the unit swells to about 130 officers and enlisted members who are all involved with the test mission.

A large number of 133rd unit members deployed as recently as 2017 when they were assigned to the United States Central Command area of responsibility. With their eye on the sky, the unit was charged with providing air defense for the U.S. and partner nations during their deployment.

 “It was important to me to get out and speak with the Airmen and the command team and see some of the challenges that exist within the unit,” Ernst added.  “We want to make sure that we are supporting the 133rd appropriately.”

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