Airmen at the 188th Fighter Wing in Fort Smith said farewell Wednesday (April 2) to another one of their A10 planes as the base transitions to a new mission with unmanned aircraft.
The Flying Razorbacks said they're having to learn new skills as they make the transition to the drone mission.
"It’s a huge change for some of our pilots and a lot of our maintainers as well to go into a completely new career field," explained Major Heath Allen, who serves as the executive officer at the 188th Fighter Wing. "This is largest and most complex mission conversion in the 60-year history of our wing."
Airmen at the 188th Fighter Wing said they'll miss working with the powerful planes.
"It's a war machine," said Justin Bobbitt, a Tech Sergeant at the base. "It's a very durable aircraft. We are proud to have been the maintainers for it."
Airmen also added that they're proud of the work accomplished during the seven years they had the A10 mission based in Fort Smith.
"We saved countless lives, and our mission capability rating was heads above everybody else," Travis Black, a Master Sergeant at the base, said.
"Knowing that the work that we've done and the missions that we have accomplished, that we were a part of that... That will be missed," Bobbitt said.
After Wednesday's departure, four A10 planes remain at the base. The last plane is expected to leave in June.
Officials with the 188th said few jobs are being cut as a result, and that instead, airmen are learning new skills as the mission changes.
"It's going to be rewarding to me knowing that I'm helping guys on the ground in certain situations," Black said.
The A10 aircraft leaving today will head to Moody Air Force Base in Georgia where it will become part of a squadron at the base. The full transition to drone aircraft is expected to take several years.