188th Families Prepare for Air Force General’s Visit

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Military families fight to save the A-10 mission at the 188th Fighter Wing in Fort Smith. The United States Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark A. Welsh III will tour the base Friday.

Ashley Ahlert picked up sweatshirts for her family Wednesday. “I've got a shirt for both my mother in law and my mom,” she said.

Ahlert’s husband is a pilot at the 18th Fighter Wing. Friday she and other military families will wear sweatshirts that say “we love our flying Razorbacks.”

“It’s loud and clear,” said Lorie Robertson, with the 188th Fighter Wing Fort Chaffee Community Council. “You know we support, we love the flying Razorbacks.”

The families want to make an impression on Gen. Welsh when he visits the base.

“Our goal also is not necessarily to see the general, but for him to see us,” said Robertson.

The 188th Fighter Wing could lose its A-10 mission. Unmanned aircraft could soon sit on the runway.

“We just want a really good show to let them know that we care what happens to this facility,” said Shirley Bearden, an airman’s wife.

About 1,000 people work at the base. Families say a mission change will mean layoffs.

“Our maintainers will not have a job if we do not have a manned aircraft on our ramps,” said Ahlert.

Families plan to flood Phoenix Avenue in front of the base on Friday. “Wear your red, white, and blue,” said Ahlert. “Bring signs, banners.”

The families also have letters written by children from local schools and banners for the general’s visit.

The sweatshirts passed out Wednesday are not available for the public, but everyone is invited to come out Friday morning.