By Jim Hughes, Fort Rucker Public AffairsJune 13, 2019
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Fort Rucker's rich history is proudly on display in many places above and beyond the U.S. Army Aviation Museum, as each building, road and airfield with a person's name on it harkens back to tales of heroism, sacrifice and the building of Army Aviation into the fighting force of today.
Fort Rucker will revisit its past to honor the sacrifices, achievements, impact and memory of Maj. Gen. Bogardus Snowden "Bugs" Cairns during a rededication ceremony at Cairns Army Airfield June 24 at 9 a.m. at its base operations building.
Cairns AAF, formerly known as Ozark AAF, was renamed after the general in 1959 after Cairns was killed in an H-13 Sioux crash in 1958.
The effort to pull off the ceremony is being led by Chaplain (Capt.) Chris Cairns, a descendant of the general, chaplain with the U.S. Army Warrant Officer Career College and self-described family historian who said he can trace his family's military history all the way back to the French and Indian War in New Amsterdam -- now New York City -- and the great majority of the conflicts the U.S. has found itself involved in.
The chaplain's great uncle, the namesake of Cairns AAF, was brought to Fort Rucker by Gen. Hamilton Howze in 1957 to command the Army Aviation School and Fort Rucker, and also to apply cavalry doctrine to Army Aviation, according to the chaplain.
"The backstory was that he would've been an Olympian on horseback for the Army equitation team, but World War II broke out, so he didn't go to the Olympics in 1940," the chaplain said. "So, he went to the advanced equitation class in Fort Riley, Kansas -- he was on horseback in the 30s, tanks in the 40s and was the first to apply cavalry doctrine to air mobility. But after he died, the Howze commission became sort of the standard point of reference for everybody afterwards."
To Howze and Cairns, applying cavalry doctrine to Army Aviation made a lot of sense, the chaplain added.
"There's reconnaissance, which was the cavalry's job in the Civil War, and you can deliver troops, so he thought of it as a platform for cavalry. Organizing doctrine in that way is what helped the most senior members of the Army kind of understand the capability," he said. "And Howze understood, even though it might seem weird, you need to pull in someone who has fought with cavalry tactics, who understands them, so that they can be duly applied to this new platform."
Howze knew Cairns from their time together in World War II where Bugs was a sub-commander of Task Force Howze and the Allied push through Italy -- including being one of the first into Rome, the chaplain said, adding that prior to Italy, his great uncle was a primary planner for the Allied efforts in North Africa.
"I just want to make sure he's not just a plaque on the wall that people pass by," the chaplain said. "I want to tell the full story of who he was and what his contributions were so he can be better understood. That's the idea, to tell the story."
Many of the general's descendants are scheduled to attend the rededication ceremony, including his children, grandchildren and other family members, and the chaplain and the rest of the family will put artifacts from the general's career on display during the ceremony.
"We'll be highlighting a lot of the history buried under sediment to resurrect the story of Major General Cairns and his contributions to the Army, and Army Aviation in particular," the chaplain said.
Chaplain Cairns has created a Wikipedia page on the general, so those who would like more information on Bugs' impact on Army Aviation and his history beforehand can check it out at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bogardus_Snowden_Cairns.