188th Wing Is Operational In New Mission

FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- After two years of preparation, the 188th Wing is once again operational.

The primary missions of the 188th Wing, based at Ebbing Air National Guard Base in Fort Smith, are flying remotely piloted aircrafts called MQ-9 Reapers, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting.

"We have the infrastructure that actually allows us to control an aircraft from Fort Smith that is currently flying right now a half a world away," said 188th Commander Bobbi Doorenbos. "Two years later we are at the point where we are now operational."

The unit has spent the last two years training and recruiting after some members of the 188th moved on.

"Some folks retired, some folks departed to go to another mission or guard base," Doorenbos said. "We are now building back up our infrastructure."

The 188th converted their mission from using the A-10s in June 2014 to the new remotely piloted aircrafts.

The MQ-9 Reapers are put in the air and landed by crews with the aircraft. However, while they are in the air, crews with the 188th can take control of them using a satellite link.

"We may not be as visible in the community anymore because we don't have airplanes flying around, but we are still very much a part of this community," Doorenbos said.

There are more than 1,000 people employed at the 188th, and two-thirds are drill status guards who work part-time with the remotely piloted air crafts. They also work full-time within local communities.

The unit is looking to hire nearly 200 people to be a part of the new mission. They are looking for pilots, firefighters, human resource workers, sensor operators and targeting analysts.

For more information contact Master Sgt. Eric Martin, 188th Recruiting Office supervisor at 479-573-5138 or 1-800-446-8373. You can also contact Tech Sgt. Katie Higginbotham at 479-573-5728.