The first phase of construction is now complete as the Air Force Special Operations Command prepares to open the Hurlburt Field Airpark to the public next spring, giving visitors a chance to see historic aircraft firsthand and learn about the legacy of Air Commandos.
- With aircraft nicknames like “Wicked Wanda,” “The Ultimate End” and “Big Daddy,” each plane and monument in the airpark has a story behind it, said AFSOC historian Todd Schroeder.
“Even in their silence, airplanes tell a story,” Schroeder said. “They tell the story of our Air Commandos, operations, missions and achievements.”
The airpark will showcase over 20 static aircraft displays from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War era and the Global War on Terror.
Aircraft on display include an:
- AC-119G Shadow
- C-46D Commando
- B-25J Mitchell
- HH-3E Jolly Green
- AC-47D Spooky
- T-28A Trojan
- O-1E Bird Dog
Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind, AFSOC commander, said opening the park will allow the command to preserve the Air Commando legacy and share its mission with the local community.
“We are dedicated to preserving the legacy of our Air Commandos and we want to share our mission – past, present and future – with our community,” Bauernfeind said. “We look forward to educating and inspiring our visitors about the rich heritage and traditions that we have here at Hurlburt Field and within AFSOC.”
The airpark has been closed to the public for over 20 years. Officials currently expect it to open in spring 2024, with plans to later add a museum and heritage center.
Some aircraft have stories attached to their service. The crew of “The Ultimate End,” for example, remembers March 4, 1972 as both lucky and unlucky – that night their AC-130A Spectre gunship was severely damaged by enemy fire but managed to limp home.
- “Wicked Wanda,” an AC-130H Spectre on display, deployed in nearly every U.S. conflict since Vietnam. “Big Daddy” earned its nickname as the first of the AC-130U gunship fleet.
The park also includes memorials like one honoring Master Sgt. John Chapman, an Air Force combat controller who died protecting teammates in Afghanistan in 2002 and was awarded the Medal of Honor.
“The airpark is special because it’s a tangible timeline of special operations and Hurlburt Field,” Schroeder said. “It shows how our Air Commandos innovated and adapted and never settled for the status-quo.”
The expansion is being coordinated with the Air Commando Association, a nonprofit group committed to preserving Air Commando heritage.
AFSOC would like to hear from all airpark stakeholders. Any individuals who represent the organizations with a memorial or monument in the airpark can reach out to AFSOC Public Affairs at email@example.com no later than September 22, 2023 to receive information about upcoming area development planning meetings.