The 188th Fighter Wing in Fort Smith will lose its A-10 flying mission due to Department of Defense budget cuts.
Lawmakers now believe the deal is basically done.
“The intent is to transition into a new mission, not to eliminate the unit,” Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh, III, told reporters in a news conference Friday (Jan. 18).
About a thousand people work at the 188th. Some people will lose their jobs, but it is not clear how many jobs will be lost.
“Here in Fort Smith there will be a small decrease in the numbers of people,” the general said.
Gen. Welsh toured the base and met with the Arkansas congressional delegation, including Steve Womack, John Boozman, Mark Pryor and Tom Cotton.
He said the reality is the Air Force is changing.
“We looked at every A-10 unit we had,” Gen. Welsh said. “We’re drawing them down in the active duty force, which we don’t want to do. We’re drawing them down in the guard which we don’t want to do, but that’s the reality of the fiscal environment.”
He couldn’t give a definite time table of when the transition will take place. Arkansas lawmakers plan to focus on getting another mission for the 188th.
An outpouring of community support welcomed the general to the area as hundreds of friends and family of 188th Airmen lined Phoenix Avenue.
“Every time I go to an air guard base I see the same thing,” the general said. “The Air Guard is a fantastic organization and there’s communities like this all over the country.”
General Welsh left almost immediately after speaking to reports on the base.