Fort Smith Citizens Rally to Save 188th A-10 Mission

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Supporters of the 188th Fighter Wing had their voices heard Tuesday night. In February the Pentagon announced plans to replace the A10s with unmanned aircraft. Military members, their families, and the community made a plea to congressional members.

A crowd at the Fort Smith Convention Center gave the 188th Fighter Wing a standing ovation.

As airmen fight for the country in Afghanistan, people in Fort Smith fight for them at home. “They are great for our community. They are great to work with and they're such nice people,” said Debra Presson, of Fort Smith.

Presson attended Tuesday night’s listening session in an effort to show congress the 188th needs to keep their current A10 mission. “I think they need to see how much Fort Smith, how much this community supports the 188th, believes in their missions,” said Presson.

Senator Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas), Senator John Boozman (R-Arkansas), Representative Steve Womack (R-Arkansas), Governor Mike Beebe, and a key member of the United States House Committee on Armed Services listened as one by one people stepped up to explain how budget cuts at the 188th will hurt the community.

“If we fail and we go into January it'll cost 1.5 million jobs across the country,” said Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Virginia).

Rep. Forbes toured the 188th, the range, and its airspace Tuesday.

“Something like this really helps us build our case and find more allies in congress,” said Sen. Pryor.

“The mission just needs to stay the same. They need to just leave that alone, go back and tell them in Washington that move on to the next one,” said Presson.

Rep. Forbes says if they cannot get legislation passed soon, the budget cuts will take effect.