Pope Air Force Base changes name, keeps same mission
Col. James C. Johnson, 43rd Airlift Wing commander, center, and Maj. Gen. Rodney O. Anderson, right, deputy commanding general, XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg, sign a proclamation stating that Pope Air Force Base will transfer over to Fort Bragg and become known as Pope Field, Tuesday, at Hangar 4. Brig. Gen. William J. Bender, far left, U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center, and Col. Paul M. Kucharek, left, newly appointed 43rd Airlift Group Commander, also participated in the ceremony.

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - "Team Pope!" "Ready now!"
Before a crowd of dignitaries, generals, Airmen and Soldiers at Hangar 4, Maj. General Rodney O. Anderson, deputy commanding general, XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg, and Air Force Col. James C. Johnson, 43rd Airlift Wing commander, signed a proclamation, Tuesday, officially changing Pope Air Force Base's name back to the historic Pope Field, one of three Army air fields at Fort Bragg. Pope Field was established in 1919.

The 63-year change in ownership was due to the 2005 Base Closure and Realignment Act. The Air Force Heritage of America Band from Langley AFB, Va., and the 82nd Airborne Division Chorus provided music during the ceremony. Many Airmen said they were ready for the change.

"I think it's historical and exciting," said Staff Sgt. Sharon Morrisey, 43rd Airlift Wing chaplain's office. Morrisey has been stationed at Pope since 2000 and saw a lot of changes such as realigning the maintenance and logistics groups.

Dave Davenport, who was stationed at Pope Air Force Base in 1964, enjoyed seeing all the C-130s during his career as a flight engineer. "In December of 1965, we had 78 C-130s on the ramp," he said.

The retired master sergeant was also the base photographer for 25 years and drew the "Herky Bird" cartoon featured in the Carolina Flyer, Pope's base newspaper.

Anderson said that what would not change was the bond and common mission between Soldier and Airman.

"Pope Airman and Bragg paratroopers have a long history of close cooperation from Vietnam to Grenada, Panama to Haiti, Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq. So today, to return to the name of Pope Field is a return to the beginning." Anderson assured the audience that Bragg and Pope will remain the "center of the universe."

After the proclamation signing, Johnson received the Legion of Merit from Brig. Gen. William J. Bender, U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center commander.

As Airmen stood at attention, Bender and Johnson furled the 43rd Airlift Wing guidon as a symbol of inactivating the wing. Col. Paul M. Kucharek, the new commander of the 43rd Airlift Group unfurled the new flag with Bender's help. The new unit will take care of daily operations at Pope Field.

The name may have changed, but that's not the big news, according to Johnson. In his last speech as the base's commander, he said, "The real news today is that Pope Field is ready to answer the phone. When the nation calls 911, it's Fort Bragg Soldiers who answer the call. The very next call will be to the Airmen of Pope.

Those Airmen will continue to prove their motto, 'Ready Now!'"

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16