ANG command chief pays 188th Fighter Wing visit
By Maj. Heath Allen, 188th Fighter Wing executive officer
/ Published April 10, 2014
FORT SMITH, Ark. --
The 188th Fighter Wing here received a visit from the Air National Guard's top enlisted Airman April 5.
ANG Command Chief Master Sgt. James W. Hotaling made a stop at the 188th FW and met with 188th Command Chief Master Sgt. Stephen Bradley and Arkansas Air National Guard Command Chief Master Sgt. Asa Carter before addressing the 188th's enlisted force.
Hotaling spoke about the 188th's on-going conversion from fighters to an Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, space-focused targeting and remotely piloted aircraft mission. Hotaling said he understands the challenges the 188th faces as it ventures into unchartered territory.
"We really just try to do a temperature check and I understand this is a very stressful moment in time right now," Hotaling said. "But your wing is very resilient."
The 188th is no stranger to change, flying 16 aircraft, including nine primary mission aircraft, in its 60-year history.
"As I came in I saw many mission set changes," Hotaling said referring to the row of static aircraft that lines the street adjacent to the 188th headquarters facility. "The air park that's there right now represents a mission set change that you've experienced during your entire history here at the wing. So I have pride, confidence that you're going to get over this mission set change."
While the 188th has without question endured the gamut of transformation, this mission transition is the most complex in the 60-year history of the 188th. Hotaling said the wing should be proud that the Air Force has entrusted it with such a cutting-edge assignment.
"We are entering into a new era of warfare and you're going to be on the leading edge of that," Hotaling said. "We like to say that the Air National Guard is the first choice for homeland operations; you prove that at the 188th."
Hotaling also lauded the 188th's combat performance. The wing shattered deployment records in combat hours, munitions expended and mission capability metrics in its last two Air Expeditionary Forces deployments to Afghanistan. Hotaling also praised the 188th's community outreach and the support exhibited by the local community.
"You have a wonderful combat record and something that you will do again in the future," Hotaling said. "And you have enduring voices in the community and partnerships overseas; you're a great partner in this community for sure. The 188th is a resilient wing with a great future."
Bradley, the 188th's top enlisted advisor, said Hotaling's visit came at just the right time for the wing.
"I think it was good for our enlisted force to hear from Chief Hotaling," Bradley said. "We're happy that he took the time to pay us a visit and see what the 188th has to offer. It's important for our future leaders - those young Airmen and junior noncommissioned officers - as well as our senior enlisted to have the opportunity to sit down with the ANG's top chief and catch a glimpse of what's on the horizon for us all. With the challenges we've been through over the past year, his visit was perfect timing."
Following his enlisted call, Hotaling met with 188th chief master sergeants and first sergeant before sitting down with the wing's director of psychological health, Airmen and Family Readiness reps and the chaplain office.
After enjoying lunch with 188th members in the Citizen Airman Dining Hall, Hotaling also popped in to sundry offices at Ebbing Air National Guard Base to visit with Airman across the wing before sitting down with 188th senior leadership and a Special Forces representative to receive a mission and capabilities briefing.
Hotaling then hopped on an Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from the Arkansas Army National Guard's 77th Theater Aviation Brigade and took an aerial tour of nearby Fort Chaffee Maneuver Training Center before landing at the 188th's Detachment 1 Razorback Range. While at the range, he met with 188th pilots and representatives from the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron who were conducting close-air support training with the 188th's A-10C Thunderbolt II "Warthogs". Hotaling observed the A-10s dropping ordnance and firing its 30mm Gatling gun before departing for the 189th Airlift Wing, the second leg of his Arkansas Air National Guard tour.