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— A date has been set for the chief of staff for the Air Force to visit the 188th Fighter Wing in Fort Smith in advance of base closure decisions.

Gen. Mark Welsh III is to visit the base Jan. 18.

Local officials and members of the state’s congressional delegation urged Welsh to make the visit.

A $640 billion defense authorization bill passed last month opened the way for removal of the A-10 mission from the 188th.

Retired Col. Kevin Wear, former 188th commander and chairman of the 188th Fighter Wing Community Steering Committee, told the Southwest Times Record that getting Welsh to visit is the best opportunity to save the mission.

Under the bill, the Air Force would replace the 188th’s A-10 mission with drone aircraft.

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