As the marching cadence says, the engines and turbines are starting to whine. So early in the morning.
Last summer, the secretary of the Air Force signed a memo to establish something called a Foreign Military Sales training center in the United States, and Fort Smith was one of the finalists.
Word came down late last week that Fort Smith had been chosen. Fort Smith already has a lot of flyboys and flygals walking around, but we're going to start seeing a lot more of them--with strange-looking uniforms and insignia that some of us won't recognize.
Pilots from around the world are scheduled to come to Arkansas to train, and officials expect a lot more will move here in support. The Air Force has selected Ebbing Air National Guard Base for this training center. According to Thomas Saccente's story in Friday's paper, there'll be a lot more fighter planes in the skies overhead, including dozens of F-35s and even some F16s out of Singapore:
"Foreign Military Sales is a security assistance program authorized by the Arms Export Control Act. The act allows the U.S. to sell defense equipment, conduct training and provide services to a foreign country when the president deems that doing so will strengthen U.S. national security and promote world peace . . . ."
Peace through strength. We've heard that phrase before.
George McGill, the mayor of Fort Smith, says this training center will probably be one of the largest economic development projects in the state and could bring close to a $1 billion to the area.
"Realize that they're going to be bringing families here," McGill said. "At one point, I heard numbers up to 300 to 350 people that would be coming to man that operation, so you're talking about housing developments. You're talking about spending on just about everything that people would need."
All that's apparently needed is an environmental impact report before the deal can be signed in ink. Considering all the VIPs who were there for the announcement--the governor, both senators, etc.--we suspect that most of them expect such a report to come back A-OK.
Many Arkansans live around air bases, either near Fort Smith or North Little Rock. Others live near airports where sometimes military types get in their flight hours. The sounds of the engines can rattle the windows at any hour. And you know what that sounds like?
That sounds like freedom at work.