Community Gathers to Support 188th

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Hundreds of people lined Phoenix Avenue Friday morning to show their support for the 188th Fighter Wing as Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh tours the base.

The group was dawning red, white and blue shirts and holding signs, waiting for Welsh to arrive.

"We're just out here to support the 188th and keep our mission," said Robin Cooper, an airman's wife. "To support our husbands and our friends."

The group, hoping to show Welsh just how important the A-10 flying mission is to the River Valley.

Tony Worden, a veteran who retired from the 188th Fighter Wing, said he is really hoping that Welsh is able to save the flying razorbacks.

"It's just a special place in my heart," Worden said. "It's just this is the greatest group of people that I've ever met."

In February, the Air Force made budget cuts that would remove the 188th's A-10 mission from their base.

"We`re going to put everything we have out there to show him how much this really does mean to us as a region," sad 188th Community Council member Lorie Robertson.

"I just hope that it's not too late," Worden said. "I just hope that he will do something."

Family members say they believe this is the last push that could keep the A-10s on the ground in Fort Smith.

If the 188th Fighter Wing does lose the A-10s members of the Arkansas Delegation say they plan to fight for another flying mission for the unit.

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