Saturday, February 4, 2012

PRESS RELEASE: Force restructuring slated to strip 188th of A-10s, shift unit's new mission to remotely piloted aircraft

Arkansas National Guard Public Affairs

2/3/2012 - FORT SMITH, Ark. -- The Arkansas National Guard was informed today that the Air Force proposal to restructure the force includes the 188th Fighter Wing's transition from the A-10 Thunderbolt II to a remotely piloted aircraft mission in Fiscal Year 2013.

Remotely piloted aircraft are the newest intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aerial platforms in the Air Force inventory, used extensively the past ten years to support the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 189th Airlift Wing is also included in the proposal with the retirement of one of its nine C-130H aircraft in fiscal year 2017. The Air Force proposal is a part of the President's budget, which is scheduled to be presented to Congress Feb. 13.

Potential changes in the affected units' manpower have not been announced by the Department of Defense at this time.

"Undoubtedly some of our Airmen may be disappointed by the announcement, but what is important now is that we remain focused and maintain force structure, readiness and professionalism of the Guard to meet the future needs of the state and nation," said Maj. Gen. William D. Wofford, the adjutant general of Arkansas.

Army budget and force structure changes are not projected to impact Arkansas Army National Guard units in the near future.

The announcement comes on the heels of the January 12 release of the Defense Strategic Guidance that outlined the Department of Defense's plan to find $487 billion in savings over the next 10 years.

The 188th Fighter Wing is scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan this spring to provide close-air support in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The 188th recently returned from the first combat deployment in the A-10 in 2010.

The wing is currently authorized approximately 1,000 Airmen, with a full-time staff of approximately 350 with 21 assigned A-10 aircraft.

The Arkansas Air National Guard has had a presence in Fort Smith since the 1950s, and have flown several fighter aircraft, including the F-16 Fighting Falcon, until the Base Realignment and Closure Commission mandated the switch to the A-10 airframe in 2007.

"Fort Smith remains important to the future of the Arkansas National Guard, and we plan to make full use of the demographics and existing infrastructure there," said Wofford. "We will continue to pursue missions and opportunities with the 188th, and at the Fort Smith facilities."

The 188th also supported winter weather operations in northwest Arkansas as well as deploying its Disaster Relief Beddown System (DRBS) to southeast Arkansas after severe flooding hit the region. The DRBS allowed the Arkansas Guard to house, feed and take care of troops sent in to communities hit with record flooding in eastern Arkansas.

"Even with these proposed changes, the Arkansas Army and Air National Guard will remain a strong and ready force," said Wofford. "We are dedicated to our Airmen, families and employers, and committed to addressing the concerns of the affected service members and their families."


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