Air National Guard is in their blood

  • Published
  • By Mr Bill Shea
  • Fort Dodge Messenger
Keeping military planes in the air has become something of a tradition for the Mader family. Last summer, that tradition put all three of the family's Iowa Air National Guard members in the Middle East, near the frontlines of the war against terrorism.

Tech. Sgt. William Mader, of Fort Dodge, was in Kyrgyzstan with the 185th Air Refueling Wing. Two of his sons, Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Mader, of Nevada, and Airman 1st Class Anthony Mader, of Ames, were in Iraq with the 132nd Fighter Wing.

Benjamin Mader completed the first leg of his journey to Iraq aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker that has his father's name enscribed on it. The flying filling station bears the older Mader's name because he is its crew chief. ''That was very neat,'' Benjamin Mader said.
Military duty has caused all three men to miss special events and time with family and friends. But those sacrifices were all worthwhile in their collective opinion.
''When a mission is completed, it's always satisfying to know you were part of it,'' William Mader said. ''I have never been on a bad tour yet,'' he added.

His fascination with planes launched him into a military career that two of his sons eventually followed. William Mader, a native of West Bend, enlisted in the regular Air Force after graduating from high school. ''I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I knew I loved airplanes,'' he said. He became a mechanic for jet fighters. His Air Force career took him to Texas, Thailand, West Germany and Florida before he was discharged in 1977. After leaving the Air Force, he returned to Fort Dodge and got married. He served one year with the Iowa Air National Guard unit in Fort Dodge. That unit is the 133rd Test Squadron today, but when Mader was a member it was an air traffic control unit.

In 1982, he rejoined the Iowa Air National Guard as a member of the 185th Fighter Wing in Sioux City. There, he again got to use his jet mechanic skills. ''I was right back into what I loved to do,'' he said. About eight years ago, the Sioux City unit traded in its F-16 Fighting Falcons for the Stratotankers and became the 185th Air Refueling Wing. Mader stayed with the unit and mastered the art of caring for much bigger airplanes.

William Mader, who does maintenance work for the United States Postal Service at the mail processing facility in Fort Dodge, is a traditional Guardsman. That means he serves one weekend a month, two weeks a year and whenever he's called to active duty. In 1999, Benjamin Mader joined the Sioux City unit. He and his father served in different parts of the outfit. ''It was just something I wanted to do,'' he said. ''I grew up with it and I just felt like carrying it on.'' He became a jet mechanic and crew chief, just like his father.

Benjamin Mader transferred to the 132nd Fighter Wing because its Des Moines base made for an easier commute while he was a student at Iowa State University in Ames. He is now a full-time member of the unit. His regular schedule calls for 10-hour shifts, Tuesday through Friday. But he puts in lots of other hours when there are missions to be accomplished.

Anthony Mader joined the 132nd Fighter Wing in 2006. He is a weapons loader who places ammunition, bombs and missiles on the F-16s. A traditional Guardsman, he is a student at Iowa State University.

The Mader family's trip to the Middle East began in February, when Benjamin volunteered to deploy with a Montana unit. Several members of the 132nd Fighter Wing were also deploying. National Guard commanders decided to use a plane from the air refueling unit to get the airmen from Des Moines to Great Falls, Mont. William Mader and his plane were tapped for that duty.

Benjamin Mader went to work at Balad Air Base in Iraq. There, the temperature hit 118 degrees on a regular basis and sand with the texture of baby powder was constantly blowing around. The fighter jet mechanic said the crews refused to let the heat distract them from their work. ''You know there's a lot of troops outside that base that are relying on you to get the planes into the air to provide the watchful eye or the fire power,'' he said.

He soon had some familiar company in the Middle East. His brother Anthony arrived with the rest of the fighter wing. And his father went to Kyrgyzstan, where the refueling unit tankers were based while they supported fighters over Afghanistan.

All three men returned safely in late summer. William Mader said he'd recommend National Guard service to anyone. He said it provides a chance to have a life as a civilian and a military life at the same time. ''It's just the perfect opportunity to enjoy two lives in one lifetime,'' he said.

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