VIDEO: 188th Caught in Political Decision, Congressmen Plan Public Meeting

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House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Randy Forbes and Arkansas congressmen will host “Defending our Defenders,” a public listening session which will show support of the 188th Fighter Wing in Fort Smith.

The meeting will be held Tuesday, Aug. 21, at Arkansas Best Corporation Performing Arts Center at the Fort Smith Convention Center. Doors open at 5 p.m. and the program will begin at 6 p.m.

Rep. Steve Womack, Sen. John Boozman, Sen. Mark Pryor, Rep. Mike Ross, Rep. Tim Griffin, and local supporters of the 188th will join Rep. Forbes for this portion of his nationwide tour to seek citizen input about the dangers of defense budget cuts.

“He’s going to take two things back [to Washington, D.C.,] that I hope are etched in his mind for a long time,” said Rep. Womack. “The first thing he’s going to get is a visual, up close and personal tour of the Air Wing and the Fort Chaffee Complex to be able to get a time and space and relationship to why it’s such a cost efficient operation.”

Rep. Womack hopes he sees a large crowd and strong showing of support for the 188th Fighter Wing.

“At the end of this process, my overall goal is to create an advocate for the 188th beyond just the congressional delegation in Arkansas,” Rep. Womack said.

Rep. Womack addressed concerns that the decision to remission the 188th was political.

“If you look at all of the metrics, if you look at cost per training hour, flying hour, cost per maintenance hour, if you look at all of the metrics and great support of the community there is no good, logical, sane reason to remission,” he said.  “Now if you were taking the A-10s completely out of the Air Force fleet then we’d understand. But they’re going to keep 200 of them in the Air Force, at least about 20 of those rascals should be right out here with the 188th.”

Rep. Womack said US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta confirms no plan of a base closure and realignment  or BRAC in 2013.

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