The January 18th visit by General Mark Welsh III, comes amid efforts of the Arkansas Congressional Delegation to save the 188th Fighter Wing based in Fort Smith.
U.S. Senators Mark Pryor and John Boozman, together with Congressmen Rick Crawford, Tim Griffin, Steve Womack and Tom Cotton today jointly announced the general's planned visit.
Members of the delegation sent a letter to Gen. Welsh in November inviting him to visit the 188th to get a more complete picture of the capabilities, readiness level and airspace and facilities provided at the Air Base when making a decision about the Air Force's modernization efforts.
"Today's announcement is welcome news for the 188th Fighter Wing and the entire Fort Smith community," Pryor said. "The Air Force's initial decision about the 188th was wrong, and this visit will give us an opportunity to demonstrate why it's in the best interest of our national security to keep a vital mission at the 188th."
"This is an important step in our efforts to maintain a flying mission in Fort Smith. Gen. Welsh has heard us tout the capabilities of the 188th Fighter Wing. Now, he will have an opportunity to see first-hand how the most cost effective Air National Guard unit in the country partners with the other assets in Ft. Smith to provide a variety of capabilities. We look forward to showcasing the value and resources our air base provides to our national security," Boozman said.
"Bringing General Welsh to Fort Smith will give him the chance to visit the most cost effective Air National Guard unit in the country. The entire Arkansas delegation is working to keep the 188th Fighter Wing at Fort Smith and General Welsh's visit is the next step in making that happen," Crawford said.
"I'm pleased that General Welsh has accepted the delegation's invitation to visit the 188th Fighter Wing, which employs nearly 1,000 Arkansans. It's my hope that he will come to see what we've been telling the Obama Administration all along: Removing the A-10s from Fort Smith is simply not an efficient use of taxpayer money," Griffin said.
"Thanks to General Welsh for making it a priority to visit the 188th Fighter Wing. I am confident that when he gets to Fort Smith, he will see the incredible value the Flying Razorbacks lend to our national defense. The men and women of the armed forces who serve there, as well as those who train at Fort Chaffee, enjoy one of the best joint training opportunities our nation can offer. We will continue to do all we can to protect it," Womack said.
"As our nation faces sobering cuts to defense spending, it is more important than ever that the dedicated servicemen and women at Fort Smith's 188th Fighter Wing have the opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities and effectiveness to General Welsh and his staff. I greatly appreciate his willingness to visit the Fort Smith Air National Guard Station," Cotton said.