FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Fort Bragg's rich heritage will get a lift Monday as Pope Air Force Base becomes Pope Field, an Army operated facility supporting Air Force operations and merging the post's growing Army and joint force community.
During a 10 a.m., ceremony to be held at Pope AFB's Hangar 4, the base will become Pope Field and several Air Force units will be re-designated or inactivated, marking a significant moment in Air Force history.
The signing of a proclamation by Col. Stephen Sicinski, Fort Bragg Garrison commander, and Col. Paul Kucharek, 43rd Operations Group commander, will mark the handover of responsibility for Pope Field. Kucharek will then preside over the inactivation of Pope AFB's Mission Support Group, Maintenance Group, Contracting Squadron, Security Forces Squadron, Communication Squadron, Civil Engineer Squadron, units whose mission will be assumed by the Army garrison.
"The transfer of Pope Field to Army control is certainly an emotional event for our Air Force brethren, but it would be hard to find a closer relationship between sister services than Fort Bragg has had with Pope Air Force Base," said Sicinski.
The 43rd Operations Group, a vital part of Pope's continuing mission, will be re-designated the 43rd Air Group during the ceremony, and the 43rd Air Wing will be inactivated.
The changes that the Bragg-Pope community will notice will be minor, Sicinski said, but will go a long way to providing consistent quality of life services to all of Fort Bragg's uniformed servicemembers and their Families. Some of the changes include:
-The closure of Willow Lakes Golf Course, which will allow for the land's use for military homes and sports fields.
-The consolidation of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation services including child development centers, school age services, bowling alleys and a planned All Ranks Club to be built on the site of the former NCO Club near the Mini-Mall on Reilly Road.
-Religious support for all of Fort Bragg and Pope Field under one management.
-Post-wide Emergency Services will be centrally managed.
-Gates which once separated Fort Bragg from Pope Air Force Base will no longer be required.
Pope Field will be Fort Bragg's third airfield, joining Simmons Army Airfield and Mackall Army Airfield in supporting combat training and rapid contingency deployments of the post's airborne and special operations communities.
The 440th Airlift Wing, a reserve unit stationed at Pope will also assume duties the 43rd AW previously had.
"In most instances Airmen will only notice a difference in uniforms. Throughout all of the transitions, the 440th Airlift Wing will continue to provide total forces mission ready combat airlifters and equipment, anywhere and anytime," said Col. John Stokes, 440th Airlift Wing vice commander. "The big message for those in the Fort Bragg community is that the Air Force mission at Pope Field continues post March 1.
"In some cases the responsibility for functions changes from 43rd AW to 440th AW or Army Garrison, but all five major commands (AFRC, AMC, AETC, AFSOC, ACC) will still have units operating at Pope Field."
On Monday, the 440th will assume the following responsibilities:
-Host Aviation Resource Management
-Senior airfield authority (to include the air traffic control tower management)
-Civilian personnel flight
-Aerospace ground equipment
-Public health (bio environmental)
-Sexual assault response coordinator
-Base records, official mail, communications security and automated data processing equipment.
Named after Army aviator 1st Lt. Harley Halbert Pope, who was killed Jan. 7, 1919, when the JN-4 Jenny he was flying crashed into the Cape Fear River, the War Department officially established "Pope Field" in 1919. It ranks as one of the oldest installations in the Air Force.
When the Air Force became its own branch of the military in September 1947, Pope Field officially became Pope Air Force Base. Pope AFB has played a leading role in the development of U.S. strategies and air-power throughout history. Original operations included land photography for mapping, carrying the mail, and spotting for artillery and forest fires.
Today, Pope continues to put the "air" in airborne for Fort Bragg missions by providing airlift and close air support to American armed forces and to humanitarian missions flown all over the world.
Pope's transition to Army management was directed by public law in keeping with the 2005 Base Closure and Realignment Commission's recommendations to improve military efficiency and reduce redundancy.