Iowa Air National Guard takes part in the 95th Iowa FFA Leadership Conference Published April 19, 2023 By Senior Airman Tylon Chapman 185th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs AMES, Iowa -- Members of the Iowa Air National Guard Recruiting office spoke to members of the Iowa FFA Association at the Iowa FFA’s 95th Annual Leadership Conference at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa, on April 17 and 18, 2023. The National FFA Organization is a vocational organization for young people interested in farming and other agriculture-related fields. According to the FFA website, the FFA has 8,995 chapters spread over all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Event staff reported that over 7,000 people attended this year’s conference. Lt. Col. Brandon East, the 185th Air Refueling Maintenance Group Commander, spoke during two breakout sessions at the convention. East spoke to FFA members about many of the benefits and experiences a person can receive from joining the Air National Guard. He also explained how the FFA produces many individuals that due to their familiarity with machinery from the agriculture industry, have useful foundational knowledge when learning aircraft maintenance. “185th Maintenance is a hands-on organization,” said East. “The FFA group as a whole brings a lot of knowledge to the table just from what they are interested in with machinery.” Sam Martin, the Iowa FFA Association State President, said that the value of hard work and tenacity formed in the FFA can transfer to any field, but that it fits well in a military career. “Both of these groups value discipline and there is a level of expectation to improve yourself while serving,” said Martin. “Both are also very service-oriented and value giving back to the community." At the convention, Master Sgt. Benjamin Mader, a Sensor Operator of the 124th Attack Squadron of the Iowa Air National Guard 132nd Wing, accepted a thank-you gift on behalf of the Iowa Air National Guard from the FFA at the conference. Col. Todd Miller, A5/8 Strategic Director for Iowa Joint Force Headquarters and an FFA alumni, said that the practical application of leadership in the FFA was crucial for his personal development. Prior to the convention, the Iowa FFA’s state officers visited the 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City and recorded footage for their “Call to Convention” video with the assistance of 185th Air Refueling Wing Maintenance and Public Affairs personnel. Holly Schmitt, the Iowa FFA Association State Secretary, remarked how she learned about many of the daily duties of Guard members after visiting the 185th ARW. “I learned about the diverse types of careers available through the Guard and the assistance they can provide in paying for college and in future careers,” said Schmitt. In addition to many diverse types of careers one can find in the Air National Guard, Iowa Guard members are eligible for up-to 100% tuition assistance scholarships for schools in Iowa. More on Iowa National Guard tuition assistance can be found here.