The Pentagon has ordered Iowa’s National Guard to prepare for possible deployment to Libya.
Only the Air National Guard, not the Army National Guard, is now involved in U.S. operations in Libya, where U.S. forces are involved as part of an international coalition enforcing a no-fly zone.
Those allied forces, which are expected to be under NATO’s control soon, are also conducting air strikes against Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi’s ground troops and enforcing an arms embargo on the country.
The Pentagon said Iowa’s Guard units will most likely conduct midair refueling missions for those forces.
Iowa Guard spokesman Col. Greg Hapgood said the “warning order” to assess equipment and capabilities of Iowa’s Air National Guard came earlier this week from Washington.
“The first thing you do is take an inventory of people with the right background and the equipment you have on hand,” Hapgood said.
Iowa has three Air National Guard bases, in Des Moines, Sioux City and Fort Dodge.
The Des Moines base is home to the 185th Air Refueling Wing, which is the unit most likely to be called up.
“We’re kind of robust in the Air National Guard right now,” Hapgood said.
Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt III, the director of the Air National Guard, said he wasn’t surprised that the Air Force turned to the Air Guard to provide refueling support to the coalition.
“The Air Guard has the experience and expertise to quickly mobilize, deploy and integrate with any joint or coalition effort anywhere in the world,” Wyatt said.
The Pentagon has already called up Guard units from Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Utah to help with the refueling effort. Units from Alaska, Arizona, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, and Tennessee are also expected to be called up soon, according to the Pentagon.
Nearly 3,000 Iowa Army National Guard members are serving in Afghanistan, the largest deployment of Iowa Guard members since World War II.