F-16 Fighter Jet (photo credit: Iowa National Guard)

The Iowa Air National Guard is preparing for a training exercise in Australia.

Guard spokesperson Colonel Greg Hapgood says the “Sentry Down Under” mission will involve around 125 airmen. “The earliest the airmen will depart Iowa will be sometime this weekend,” Hapgood said. “They’ll spend about three weeks in Australia working with their Australian counterparts.”

The Guard’s contingent will include members of the 132nd Fighter Wing in Des Moines and the 185th Air Refueling Wing of Sioux City. The aircraft will include eight F-16 fighter jets and a KC-135 air refueling tanker – one of the largest aircraft in the world.

The U.S. and Australian militaries have a long history of working together, but this is the first time the Iowa National Guard has sent airmen to Australia. “This is just a tremendous opportunity for men and women of the Iowa National Guard to get a better understanding of how Australia’s Air Force works,” Hapgood said. “They are a partner we’ve worked with on numerous occasions overseas in combat theaters, but the more familiarity and understanding we have of how they do business will just make that relationship even better.”

The Iowa airmen will be stationed at RAAF Base Williamtown in New South Wales.