Air Force General to Tour 188th Friday

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh will visit the 188th Fighter Wing on Friday. Congressional leaders hope the visit will show him the base needs to keep its A-10 mission.

Lawmakers hope to know more information about the future of the base after Friday’s visit.

“The good news is you know we’ve just got such a great story to tell,” said Sen. John Boozman, R-Arkansas.

In February the Air Force announced budget cuts. The 188th Fighter Wing could lose its A-10 flying mission. “No it’s not a done deal,” said Sen. Boozman. “It certainly can change.”

“There’s evidence that it’s not completely carved in stone because we do have the chief of staff coming in,” said Rep. Steve Womack, R-Arkansas.

Congressman and senators are in town to meet with the general.

“You know this is all about jobs,” said Sen. Boozman. “It’s about families and those are the people that we’re trying to protect.”

About 1,000 people work at the 188th Fighter Wing. Families worry a mission change could mean layoffs.

The Arkansas delegation hopes to have more information about the base’s future after the general’s visit.

“I’d like to have assurance from the general that we’re gonna have airmen working at the Fort Smith airfield in some capacity,” said Rep. Womack.

Unmanned aircraft could replace the A-10s. “I am hopeful and I’m very optimistic that we’re gonna keep jobs out there,” said Rep. Womack. “The question is how many.”

If the 188th loses the A-10s, lawmakers will fight for another mission.

“What we’re trying to do is protect the jobs that we have and you know make sure again that we have a mission going into the future,” said Sen. Boozman.

Rep. Womack and Sen. Boozman could not say exactly when they would know what will happen on base. Rep. Womack hopes to have some sort of timeline after Friday’s visit.

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