Decades of dedication
Air Guard unit marks 75 years of service
For three quarters of a century, a relatively small group of airmen has worked in Fort Dodge with an often bewildering array of electronics to make their country safer.
The members of the 133rd Test Squadron have “truly made an impact, not only in Iowa, but for security and stability across the globe,” Maj. Gen. Stephen Osborn, the adjutant general of the Iowa National Guard, said Saturday.
Osborn, who commands both the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard, spoke Saturday afternoon during a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the squadron, which was established in 1948.
The ceremony began with a KC-135 Stratotanker flying low and slow over the squadron’s facility near the Fort Dodge Regional Airport. The plane, which refuels other military aircraft in midair, came from the 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City.
Before and after the ceremony, an open house was held in the squadron’s compound at which visitors could see some of the equipment the local airmen work with.
The equipment on display ranged from a big truck with a radar antenna on it to computer monitors. While the displays were impressive, Osborn reminded those gathered for the anniversary celebration that “it truly is about the people.”
“We are here to honor those men and women who dedicate a part of their lives to this organization,” he said.
He thanked the families of squadron members and the Fort Dodge community for their support.
The squadron commander, Lt. Col. Jason Kolacia, also thanked the families of squadron members, especially for their support whenever the unit was called to active duty.
“The people back home kept the home fires burning and made it possible for us to focus on the tasks of the deployment,” he said during Saturday’s ceremony.
To the members of his squadron standing in formation, he said, “You are the best in the command and control business.”
Kolacia also described the time period shortly after World War II during which the squadron was founded.
“The great war was over, but the threats across the world remained,” he said.
He noted that the year before the squadron was established, the Soviet Union blockaded West Berlin, forcing the United States to airlift supplies into the city for 11 months.
According to Kolacia, the unit, first called the 133rd Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron, was based at the former Enos Airport on the east side of Fort Dodge. It had 26 officers and 379 enlisted men, he said. Today’s squadron has about 130 members.
He said in 1954, the squadron moved to a building on the north side of Fort Dodge, which it initially shared with the Army National Guard. In 1959, the unit moved into its current building.
In 1951, during the Korean War, the unit was called to active duty and deployed to Alexandria Air Force Base in Louisiana.
Over the years, the unit’s name has changed. It has always had the number 133, but it has been called the Aircraft Control and Warning Flight, Air Control Flight, Tactical Control Squadron, Forward Air Control Flight, Air Control Squadron and finally, since 2004, Test Squadron.
Today, it has two missions. One, as its name implies, is testing electronics, radios, radars and similar systems that the Air Force is considering.
“We test incoming and new equipment for what’s called the air control community,” said Master Sgt. Samuel Hauptly.
Squadron members try out all those systems before they are sent to the rest of the Air Force.
“It’s an important role that we’ve played for 20 years,” he said.
The unit also retains a role in directing American military aircraft. Squadron members track and direct military planes so that they can safely complete their missions and return home, according to 1st Lt. Sean Flynn.
“It’s our job to inform the pilots out there of everything that’s going on,” he said.
“Safety is definitely our No. 1 priority when talking to pilots,” he added.