The 188th Fighter Wing in Fort Smith says goodbye to the last of its A-10 aircrafts on Saturday during the Conversion Day ceremony at Ebbing Air National Guard Base.
It was a monumental day for the 188th, as it transitions to a new mission with unmanned aircraft.
“There’s absolutely no way I can give the proper due to each aviator, each maintainer and supporter in just a few minutes,” said Col. Mark Anderson, 188th Wing Commander. “The time period of sixty years is just too long. Many of us will experience mixed emotions with a mission conversion. Also, there’s great sadness with the loss of the A-10, yet there’s excitement about the future.”
The 188th Fighter Wing converted to the 188th Wing on Saturday.
“We activated our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance groups and we said goodbye to our maintenance groups,” said Maj. Heath Allen, 188th Executive Officer. “We also changed our name from the 188th Fighter Wing to the 188th Wing.”
The base also said goodbye to its final two beloved A-10 aircrafts.
“Seeing a manned airplane leave knowing it was for the last time was kind of hard to watch,” said Col. Peter Gauger, 188th Vice Wing Commander. “I was a little emotional and sad to be honest with you.”
Airmen at the 188th Wing know the base is headed in a new direction.
“We are excited about the new mission,” Allen said. “Its a cutting edge mission that the air force has entrusted us with. We are excited about the future of the 188th Wing.”
Allen said the new mission will mean the airmen of the 188th will be more involved with real-time global combat operations. He also said many are learning new skills.
“The maintainers will be transitioning into ISR roles,” Allen said. “They will be analyzing and interpreting intelligence data from around the world. On the remotely piloted aircraft side, we will be conducting combat operations from Fort Smith, Arkansas.”
The final two A-10s were taken to Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The full transition to drone aircraft is expected to take several years.