Retired Air Force Gen. Lloyd “Fig” Newton told Fort Smith regional business and civic leaders that the 188th Fighter Wing based in Fort Smith survived the 2005 base cutting process because it had “sound military value.”
Newton, who was one of nine members of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission, spoke Thursday (Jan. 8) during the quarterly meeting of the 188th/Fort Chaffee Community Council.
The council was formed after the 188th survived the BRAC process to help “BRAC proof” the 188th and the active military base at Fort Chaffee, according to council chairman Dr. Jerry Stewart.
Stewart and other area leaders have credited Newton with having a primary role in reversing a Department of Defense recommendation to close the 188th — then a unit supporting F-16 fighter jets — and remove its almost 700 jobs from the area. The BRAC decided instead during an Aug. 26, 2005, meeting to keep the base open but replace the F-16’s with A-10 “Warthogs” and give the unit a new mission.
Newton said on May 13, 2005, the commission was faced with 834 closings or realignment recommendations from the Department of Defense. Closing the 188th was one of the DOD recommendations. The commission had to review the DOD info and make its own recommendations to President George Bush by Sept. 8, 2005. BRAC members visited 184 locations and nine regional hearings in the process, Newton explained.
However, and after further investigations, BRAC members had different ideas about what to do with the 188th, Newton said. The training area in Fort Smith — room to grow at the Fort Smith Regional Airport, the firing range at Fort Chaffee and training airspace in the area — was “really, really strong” in terms of military value, Newton said. He also cited “strong community support” from the Fort Smith area in the decision to retain the air guard operation.
Newton, who thinks there could be another BRAC process as early as 2020, said a community wanting to stay off the closure or realignment list might consider two things: Power and training.
A military base with a secure, or independent power grid and/or source is almost always a base military leaders want to keep. Also, a community that protects the “training opportunities” around a military base — providing room for growth, large adjacent areas for training, etc. — improves its chances of staying off a BRAC list.
On a larger note, Newton said it’s important for the military to remain strong to contend with a dangerous Iran, China with a growing and the likely resurgence of Russia. He said he has a “glass half full” view of the U.S. and is confident its economy and military will remain strong for years to come.
Col. Tom Anderson, commander of the 188th Fighter Wing (left), and J.R. Dallas, a former 188th commander, visit with retired Air Force Gen. Lloyd Newton.
(left to right) Bob Hardy, Bill Strang and Phil Bunch, all former commanders of the 188th.
State Rep. Terry Rice (left) and Waldron Mayor Randy Butler visit while waiting in the food line.
Rodney Shepard (left) and Fort Smith City Director Gary Campbell
Judy Englehart and Bob Cooper
Gen. Newton and Dr. Jerry Stewart