EBBING AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ark. -- The 24th secretary of the Air Force, Heather Wilson, visited the 188th Wing at Ebbing Air National Guard Base, Fort Smith, Arkansas, March 26, 2018, marking the second time that a service secretary has ever visited the wing, and the first top level visit since the wing’s mission stand up in 2016.
Wilson is responsible for overseeing the welfare of 670,000 active duty, Guard, Reserve, and civilian personnel as well as their families, while managing an annual budget of more than $132 billion related to strategy and policy development, risk management, weapons acquisition, technology investments and human resource management across a global enterprise.
During her visit, Wilson attended a mission capability briefing accompanied by Arkansas National Guard and 188th Wing leadership, U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, Sen. John Boozman, and Lt. Gen. John B. Cooper, Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, and Engineering and Force Protection, Headquarters U.S. Air Force. The presentation showcased the 188th’s Remotely Piloted Aircraft Operations, Distributed Communications Ground System, and Targeting Intelligence Production capabilities, providing a firsthand view of how the 188th Wing contributes to global defense operations while “deployed in place” at Fort Smith, Arkansas.
“We talk a lot about this [base] being important to the community, and it’s so very important to the community [Fort Smith], but it’s also important to the United States,” said Boozman. “Nobody does a better job of their mission, in a cost-effective way, than our guard unit here in Fort Smith.”
Wilson stopped to shake hands and spoke with members of the 188th Security Forces Squadron prior to posing for a group photo. She gave the defenders words of encouragement about how much they impact the overall successes of missions worldwide. The defenders will be deploying in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, as part of the Air National Guard’s federal mission to provide war time support.
“The air force is heavily dependent on the guard,” Wilson stated. “Much of our strength is from the Air National Guard.”
Before departing, Wilson also spoke with Fort Smith’s civil leaders, and held a Q&A session with local media about the 188th Wing, and how it fits in to the Air Force’s purview of future strategies and operations.
“This Guard unit is leading the way,” Wilson said. “So, when you think about what the future of the Air Force is, it looks a whole lot like Fort Smith.”