WASHINGTON — Iowa Senator Joni Ernst pressed an Air Force general during confirmation hearings on Tuesday about what Ernst called an unfulfilled promise the military made to Sioux City.
Ernst questioned General David Allvin, who is nominated to be the 23rd Chief of Staff for the Air Force. She said the promise was made 20 years ago to expand the runway at Sioux City. “When the National Guard’s 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City, Iowa converted from its F-16 fighters to the KC-135 tankers, the Air Force said they would upgrade the airfield at the Iowa National Guard facility,” Ernst says, “and unfortunately, the Air Force and the National Guard have not followed through on that commitment.”
During the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Ernst said the lack of a runway upgrade puts the future of the National Guard in Sioux City in jeopardy. “What we need is that runway upgrade,” Ernst says. “They’ve failed to complete that, and I’m additionally concerned with this failure because we see a conversion now going from the 135s to the KC-46s. The flying squadron, the 174th Air Refueling Squadron, could lose its mission because they cannot convert to the new tankers. Not upgrading the runway will have a direct impact on retaining the immense talent of our guardsmen and Sioux City.”
Ernst called the potential loss of those guard members unacceptable, and Allvin responded that he’d get the runway project reviewed. “We’re nothing if not a total force,” Allvin says. “I do commit to ensuring that that assessment, that evaluation is done and in conjunction with the National Guard.”
The general called the 185th a fantastic organization and promised to work with the secretary of the Air Force to pause any discussion to change the 185th’s mission until the assessment is complete.