- Associated Press - Monday, May 19, 2014

FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) - Col. Mark Anderson, 188th Fighter Wing commander, took part recently in the final training mission, or “fini flight,” with an A-10 aircraft, honoring the nearing end of the 188th’s A-10 mission.

“It’s a tradition that goes all the way back to World War II, they’d celebrate the achievement of your 100th sortie,” Anderson told the Times Record (https://bit.ly/1jXJQ4T). “It’s kind of evolved into when you have your last flight at a unit or have your last flight in an airplane, or in this case, when you have your last training sortie in your career.”

Anderson flew his Warthog through two base fire trucks, with crossing streams of water, then taxied in to the hangar where friends, family, co-workers and community supporters stood to hug, congratulate, and drench the returning pilot.

Julie Anderson stood at the ready to spray her husband with a shaken bottle of champagne, while the couple’s children, Callie and John-Lewis, manned water-filled fire extinguishers. Amid laughter and squeals, the champagne and water rained down on Anderson, who wrestled the extinguisher from his daughter and sprayed his family and friends.

“Never give up the fire extinguisher!” he said, laughing gleefully. “We forgot to brief her!” laughed his wife with a hug.

Though Anderson has flown fini flights before during his active-duty military career, he described this one as special.

“The last flight was incredible,” he said. “It was a great day to fly.”

Anderson said he even saw a bald eagle during the flight.

“I’m gonna miss it, obviously,” said Anderson, “but the unit has a bright future; we have some really neat things on the horizon for us. Just like life, it’s all change.”

The Air Force is in the process of moving A-10 fighters from the Fort Smith-based 188th as it moves to a new mission. The 188th learned in 2013 that its mission would be converted from the A-10s to a remotely piloted aircraft, targeting and intelligence unit.

The first two A-10 Thunderbolts departed Fort Smith in September. The last are expected to depart in June.

The 188th, which had its beginning as the 184th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, marked its 60th anniversary last fall.


Information from: Southwest Times Record, https://www.swtimes.com/

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