By Nancy Gould, Hunter Army Airfield Public AffairsMay 27, 2010
HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. -The airfield tarmac was the perfect place for members of the Savannah and Hunter Army Airfield communities to gather to hear patriotic music from the Savannah Winds Orchestra and enjoy static displays of Hunter memorabilia to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Hunter Army Airfield.
Veterans, volunteers, distinguished guests and members of the Armed Forces sat under tents in the shade to remember the airfield's history and to honor its namesake, Maj. Gen. Frank O'Driscoll Hunter, with a wreath, May 19. Major General Hunter, known affectionately as "Monk," was a Savannah native and World War I flying ace.
Paige Hungerpiller, a second cousin to Maj. Gen. Hunter, sat as an honored guest with her husband, Jim, observing and listening to remarks about airfield named for her "uncle."
"Monk would have loved this," Paige said, referring to the fanfare and remembering him fondly.
Bill Cathcart, general manager and vice-president of Savannah news station WTOC, recalled some of Hunter's history, starting with the airfield's beginning in 1929 as the Savannah Municipal Airport. It was renamed Hunter Field on May 19, 1940, and later became the final staging area for bomb crews deploying to the European Theater.
In 1948, the Air Force's Strategic Air Command took control of Hunter Field; renaming it Hunter Air Force Base. From 1950 - 1951, SAC spent $5.6 million improving the installation; many of those facilities are still in use today.
"SAC moved us into the jet era," said Jack Dibrell, airfield manager at Hunter, who also manages Wright Army Airfield located at Fort Stewart, along with the air space over Fort Stewart.
Dibrell also said the SAC era was significant in giving Hunter world status as a power projection platform.
"This airfield has a special place in history and the military community," Dr. Cathcart said, adding that it also has enough prominence to ward off a closure under the Department of Defense Base Realignment and Closure Act.
Hunter defends the nation with more than 6,000 Service Members who reside there, including Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen.
In 1967, Hunter became a U.S. Army Flight Training Center as a result of the Vietnam War. Before 1972, more than 11,000 rotary wing pilots were trained at Hunter, along with 4,035 AH-1 Cobra transition course pilots, 227 instructor training course pilots and 4,328 fixed wing pilots. In 1973, Hunter went into caretaker status but reopened in 1975 as a support facility for the re-activated 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) at Fort Stewart.
Carlton Peck, an Air Force retiree and former U.S. Army Morale, Welfare and Welfare employee, attended the anniversary ceremony. He was stationed at Hunter in 1964 as an Air Force photographer and brought photos of his time at here and shared them with others during the reception following the ceremony.
Congressman Jack Kingston, (R-GA) 1st Congressional District, could not attend the anniversary celebration but sent a video to convey his thanks to Hunter leaders for their efforts in making it into a powerful force in our Nation's defense. Before closing, he said "keep up the good work...Hooah."
These Servicemen and women are the essence of the American Army," Dr. Cathcart said. "In a world of evil, they are what's right. They protect and defend our liberty and extend a hand to those in need.