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Iowa National Guard's New Mission

DES MOINES, Iowa (KCCI-TV) -- The 132nd Fighter Wing of the Iowa Air National Guard is moving ahead of schedule as it transitions to its new mission.

The wing was home to all of Iowa's F-16 fighter jets until it received a new mission last year.

Now, in place of the F-16s, the wing's pilots will fly remotely piloted aircraft from the ground.

"Most of our airmen have quickly moved from the, 'Oh, I wish I could just fly or work on the F-16s forever to, Hey these are missions that are going to be around for a long time. They're giving me some skills that I know I'm going to be able to really contribute to the defense of our country and state in a way that I never would have been able to have done in the old mission," said Col. Kevin Heer, vice commander of the 132nd Fighter Wing.

The new mission removes the need for all of the maintenance airmen who worked on the jets. They're all going back to school now to learn their new jobs.

"It has been 20 years of activity crammed into a year," said Heer. "The only difference is rather than the pilot sitting right there and controlling it, the pilot is sitting there on the ground."

The fighter wing's leadership tells KCCI the F-16's are missed by some, but most airmen said they are excited about their new mission.

Staff Sgt. Dustin Ostrander has been learning his new job as an intelligence targeteer.

"How big of a bomb to use, and basically to break a system or blow up a building and minimize loss of life or any kind of civilian damages," said Ostrander.

They are taking out old manual controls and meters to replace them with high-tech screens and adding monocles to pilot's helmets.

"Overall it's a better environment for combat. Less mistakes, more accuracy, probably better response time in any kind of situation," said Lt. Col. Trenton Twedt of the 132nd Fighter Wing.

The cost of the mission change is estimated at $18 million. The entire transition is expected to take about three years.
 
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