Thursday, November 6, 2008

Conway's Col. Tom Anderson in charge of 188th Fighter Wing

The Log Cabin Democrat
November 6, 2008

By Joe Lamb
Log Cabin Staff Writer

Conway resident Col. Thomas Anderson is settling into his new job as commander of the Arkansas Air National Guard's Fort Smith-based 188th Fighter Wing and taking on the task of preparing the 188th for deployment to Afghanistan in 2010.

He is now in charge of almost 1,000 full and part-time Guardsmen and an annual operating budget of about $40 million.

Anderson served as vice wing commander under Col. Kevin Wear since 2006, becoming wing commander upon Wear's retirement on Oct. 5. Wear had planned to retire in 2005, but stayed on to fight a Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) decision to strip the 188th of its aircraft and reduce its number of personnel.

With the help of a consortium of Fort Smith city and military leaders, the BRAC decision was amended to keep the 188th airborne, but the fighter wing lost its mission to fly Lockeed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft. Instead, Wear oversaw a re-tooling of the fighter wing to support its new mission of flying and maintaining Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II ground attack and close air support aircraft.

Now that Anderson is in command of the 188th, he will oversee the process of updating the 188th's fleet of A-10s from A to C specifications, a task which involves significant technological upgrades to an aircraft that has, since its introduction in 1977, been among the most low-tech and spartan in U.S. military service.

When refitted as, the 188th's A-10Cs will be better equipped to deliver JDAM precision guided bombs and communicate electronically with other battlefield elements, Anderson explained, though the aircraft's primary weapon will remain the GAU-8, a seven-barreled, 3,900 round-per-minute 30-millimeter cannon around which the aircraft is built.

These updates may be put to use in early 2010, when the 188th is scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan to provide close air support for troops on the ground. Though Anderson said it hasn't yet been decided whether he will join his airmen in Afghanistan, the responsibility of ensuring that his updated A-10s and the Guardsmen who fly them are ready for deployment.

"I would like to go," he said. "Obviously you hate to leave mom and the kids, but it's something you've trained for and something you signed up to do and so you don't have too much anxiety about doing it."

Though originally designed to combat a large-scale mechanized invasion of western Europe as an anti-tank aircraft, Anderson said the rugged construction and slow-speed flight envelope of the A-10 is ideally suited to the role it will be filling in its upcoming deployment.

Anderson earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Central Arkansas in 1985 and a Juris Doctorate with honors from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's William H. Bowen School of Law in 1995. He has been with the 188th for over 20 years.

Anderson attributes his continued success in military aviation to an upbringing in a National Guard family.

"It's always been in my family," he said. "I've always been interested in the Guard and serving my country. In my military career I've always been at Fort Smith. It's like a second family to me and I try to treat it like family. That mindset has served me well."


The change of command ceremony took place on October 5, 2008. For full 188th Fighter Wing Public Affairs news coverage, a statement by Col. Tom Anderson and photos check the
November issue of "The Flying Razorback" online newspaper.

Online is also an Arkansas National Guard news release "Air Guard Fighter Wing to change commanders at ceremony".

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