DES MOINES, Iowa – For more than eight decades, the Iowa Air National Guard base in Des Moines has assisted in war efforts. While the aircraft they fly has changed over the years, their mission has not.
For the first time, members of the 132d Wing got a chance to see in person the remotely piloted aircraft they’re flying overseas. They’re hopeful the training they receive will allow them to help more people here at home.
It’s been almost a decade since the screech of an F-16 was synonymous with the Iowa Air Guard. Now, it’s the hum of this MQ-9 Reaper that’s truly historic for the 132d Wing.
“The fact that we’re actually seeing them out here on the ramp is really the first time a lot of the people in this base, a lot of people in the community are now able to see what we do,” Lt Col Andrew Stimpson, director of operations for the 124th Attack Squadron, said.
Stimpson is in charge of the MQ-9 combat mission at the base. Even with no person in the remotely piloted aircraft, he explains there’s still someone at the controls.
“It’s a different mindset,” Stimpson explains, “but largely we still support a lot of the same missions.”
Missions that have had them flying MQ-9s overseas in combat since December of 2015.
“So think of our ability to pick up the MQ-9s and operate essentially anywhere in the world,” Stimpson said, “which will get us closer to the fight, give us longer endurance time, and kind of extend the legs to get a little bit closer to where we need to be.”
Airmen and women are training stateside in the “Hawki Fury” exercise this week and next. North Dakota Air National Guard brought its two aircraft, and coordinated with the Iowa Air Guard to operate them out of the Des Moines base.
“Since the F-16s left, we’ve adopted more mission sets at this wing that also answer the nation’s call and our state and state partnerships,” Col Todd Miller, vice commander, said.
Thanks to aircraft that could help with search and rescue missions or even responding to natural disasters.
“Think of tornadoes, derechos, flooding, anything like that where local law enforcement or anybody or just Gov. Reynolds herself they just want to know what the extent of the damage is, where the damage is, and kind of help with efforts to to recover anybody that could could need help,” Stimpson said.
It’s all in an effort to show capabilities and what could be here in Iowa.
“So hopefully this isn’t the last time we’ll ever see them operating here on our ramp,” Stimpson said.
There’s a chance for high school juniors and seniors to see the MQ-9 Reaper in person and explore careers at the Iowa Air National Guard next week. There’s a career day on Thursday, Sept. 22 from 12:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Students need to register online in order to get on base.