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FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) - The chief of staff for the Air Force says that even after having toured the 188th Fighter Wing in Fort Smith, he'll stick with the plan to change the base's mission to operating drone aircraft.

Gen. Mark Welsh spoke Friday after meeting with officials and getting a look at the Arkansas National Guard base, where about 1,000 airmen are stationed.

Last month, Congress passed a $640.5 billion defense authorization bill that included replacing A-10s at the 188th with a drone aircraft mission.

State and local officials have urged Welsh to change that plan. Local residents turned out Friday morning at the base entrance to show their support.

The Southwest Times Record reports that Welsh was not swayed by the show of support.

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

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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