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Hurlburt Field reopens Memorial Air Park to the public after 20 years

The reopening ceremony celebrated the park's significance as both a place of reflection and an educational venue for future generations.

The Hurlburt Field Memorial Air Park reopened its gates to the public on April 10, 2024, after more than two decades, allowing visitors to experience the history and legacy of Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) firsthand.

  • On Monday, April 22, Air Commandos gathered with members of the public to celebrate with a ribbon cutting ceremony, followed by tours to see the 20+ aircraft and 30+ memorials.

The reopening ceremony celebrated the park’s significance as both a place of reflection and an educational venue for future generations. Col. Patrick Dierig, 1st Special Operations Wing commander, emphasized the importance of sharing the Air Commandos’ story with the community.

“Today’s grand opening is really a celebration of what Air Commandos are all about, this park and the people who flew these aircraft … they have a story to tell,” said Dierig. “We want to take the opportunity to open the gates and open that history up to the public, so that we can plant the seeds for future Air Commandos.”

The vision for the air park’s reopening came from Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind, AFSOC Commander, who wanted to share the story of the Air Commando with the local community and visitors. 

  • “The Hurlburt Field Air Park is not just a reminder of our heritage; It is a living symbol … a living story of our Air Commandos, bravery, valor and unending spirit of innovation that has and continues to answer our nation’s toughest challenges and bring the advantages our joint force teammates need,” said Bauernfeind.

Preparing the air park for public access required extensive work from the civil engineering squadron, including ground preparation, utility installation, and the careful relocation of fragile aircraft, according to Col. Dierig.

Among the notable aircraft on display are the AC-130H Spectre gunship, the MC-130H Combat Talon II, and the AC-47 from the Vietnam era, which holds special significance due to its connection to Medal of Honor recipient Airman John Levitow.

  • “Airman Levitow was a loadmaster on the AC-47 and a flare exploded inside that aircraft,” explained Col. Dierig. “While that flare was burning, he grabbed it with his hands and threw it out of the aircraft, burning his arms and hands significantly. If he did not do that, that flare would have burned through the airplane and the airplane would have crashed.”

During the ceremony, retired and active-duty aviators stood by each aircraft, sharing their experiences and the stories behind these legendary aircraft. The event also featured an enlistment ceremony presided over by Lt. Gen. Bauernfeind, symbolizing the air park’s goal of inspiring future generations to serve in the Air Force and become Air Commandos.

Col. Dierig, who has a deep reverence for Hurlburt Field and the surrounding community, expressed his hope that the air park will plant the seeds of inspiration for young visitors. 

  • “I hope they come to the Air Park and they fall in love with the Air Force. That they fall in love with airplanes. And that senior in high school on spring break goes back to Tennessee and raises his right hand and says, I want to join the Air Force, and more importantly, I want to be an Air Commando,” said Dierig.

The Hurlburt Field Memorial Air Park now stands as a testament to the dedication, sacrifice, and valor of the men and women who have called Hurlburt Field their home, offering visitors a chance to connect with the enduring spirit of aviation and its profound impact on AFSOC. 

Visitors will find a dedicated parking lot open to the public on the right-hand as you pull into the main entrance at Hurlburt Field.

3 Responses

  1. My father was a navigator on that very B26, tail number 666, on display. He was very proud of that aircraft and being in the 1st group of commandos at Hurlburt Field. Being a civilian, I haven’t been able to get up close to that plane for 30+ years and I’m looking forward to getting out there soon. Special thanks to the command for opening it up for the public to enjoy.

    1. Really? The article mentions Hurlburt Field. Google Hurlburt Field and you will know where it IS and HOW to get there !!!

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