Sioux City Airport work prompts temporary relocation of Air Guard

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — The 185th Air Refueling Wing is temporarily flying and maintaining unit refuelers at an air base in Kansas while the main runway at Sioux Gateway Airport is being rehabilitated.

The approximately $8.9 million runway project, which is fully funded by a federal grant through the Federal Aviation Administration, began last week in April. The track is not expected to reopen until mid-October. In the meantime, Deputy City Manager Mike Collett said commercial flights were using the secondary runway at the city-owned airport.

“It’s a reclamation of the surface that needs it, new shoulders and new lighting,” Collett said of the project. “It’s pretty simple in terms of what it is. It’s just the duration and the effort of coordination with the Air National Guard, which we are very happy to have supporting us to help us maintain the airfield.

Lt. Col. Brandon East of the 185th told the Sioux City Journal that the city delayed the project until four of the tankers left for a U.S. Central Command deployment.

“We had to load them up with packs and cargo, so they postponed their project until late April so we could get those four planes out without having to launch them from somewhere else, which we really appreciated,” he said.

Next, East said the remaining four planes went to Forbes Field Air National Guard Base in Topeka, Kansas, where the 190th Air Refueling Wing is stationed. He said all eight planes were there at the same time.

“We operated with four there, and then when the deployers came back in late June, they went back to the Air National Guard Base in Lincoln, Nebraska,” he said. “That’s where we got them. But, then those four were transferred to Kansas, so all eight were in Kansas there at one point.

East said members of the 185th travel weekly in government vehicles to Topeka to maintain aircraft and conduct flight operations. He said being able to get around just comes with the job, and a lot of Airmen are looking for opportunities like this to be able to do “real-world work” in a different location.

“It’s just week-long, five-day tours for most of our people who go to Kansas in small groups,” he said. “Most of them don’t enjoy the four-hour drive, but when it comes to their work, many are looking forward to doing this kind of duty.”

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