Military News May 2024


Hurlburt Field Reopens Memorial Air Park to the Public

Hurlburt Field Reopens Memorial Air Park To The Public
U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind, Air Force Special Operations Command Commander, left, and Col. Patrick Dierig, 1st Special Operations Wing commander, right, cut the ribbon with Lt. Gen. Bruce Fister, former AFSOC commander and a Delayed Entry Program recruit during the grand reopening of the memorial air park at Hurlburt Field, Florida, April 22, 2024. The air park stands as an educational venue for future generations, with informational plaques providing insights into the technological advancements and historic achievements of each aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ty Pilgrim)

Air Commandos gathered with members of the public to celebrate the grand reopening of the Hurlburt Field Memorial Air Park, April 10, 2024.

For the first time in more than 20 years, Hurlburt Field opened its air park in April to the general public, allowing visitors to come face-to-face with the aircraft and history of Air Force Special Operations Command. “Today’s grand opening is really a celebration of what Air Commandos are all about, this park and the people who flew these aircraft … they have a story to tell,” said Col. Patrick Dierig, 1st Special Operations Wing commander. “We want to take the opportunity to open the gates and open that history up to the public, so that we can plant the seeds for future Air Commandos.”

The air park not only serves as a place of reflection, but also as an educational venue for future generations. Informational plaques provide insights into the technological advancements and historic achievements of each aircraft, fostering an appreciation for the contributions of military aviation. “As we view this crown jewel of our history, we see our heritage from two perspectives, our Air Commandos and our iron,” said Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind, Air Force Special Operations Command Commander. “While the latter physically looms largest in the air park, the stories of our men and women on the bronze placards speak volumes of the true inspiration and carry the heaviest weight.”

Among the aircraft on display is the AC-130H Spectre gunship, emblematic of the specialized capabilities that have become synonymous with Hurlburt Field’s mission. Additionally, visitors can see the MC-130H Combat Talon II, an aircraft integral to special operations.

The Hurlburt Field Memorial Air Park stands as a living testament to the dedication, sacrifice and valor of the men and women who have called Hurlburt Field their home. As visitors wander among the stoic aircraft, they are reminded of the enduring spirit of aviation and the profound impact it has had on AFSOC as a whole. “The Hurlburt Field Air Park is not just a reminder of our heritage; It is a living symbol … a living story of our Air Commandos, bravery, valor and unending spirit of innovation that has and continues to answer our nation’s toughest challenges and bring the advantages our joint force teammates need,” said Bauernfeind.
The air park serves as a destination for veterans, aviation enthusiasts and families seeking to honor the legacies of those that came before. For more information on the Hurlburt Field Memorial Air Park, please visit: Hurlburt Field > Air Park (

Firefighter Finds Purpose in Service

Military Dakota BallPhotos of men in uniform lined the living room walls, casting a familial legacy of military service to all who entered it. U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dakota Ball, a 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, envisioned a portrait of himself hanging in a frame next to the others. “It was in every living room of every family member,” Ball said. “The long, rich heritage of military service from every male on my father’s side from before 1776 to current.”

Ball never questioned if he would serve. It was always a matter of when and which branch of service he would choose. Growing up, Ball would conquer neighborhoods with his friends and pretend they were liberating each home from enemy forces. He watched every military movie he could, imagining that each day in the military would directly mirror them.

When the time came that Ball took his oath of enlistment and joined the U.S. Air Force, he knew unquestionably what he was meant to do. “I chose fire protection for my job because my father had done it before me,” Ball said. “Hearing stories about being a firefighter from him fascinated me in my childhood and I believe I was always destined to become one myself.”

Ball knew that being a firefighter in the U.S. Air Force would come with its glory, but the job is no easy feat. He and his fellow Airmen stand by and wait for disaster to strike before becoming the wall that prevents its spread. “This job means everything to me,” says Ball. “When people call us it’s usually for one of their worst days and knowing that we can respond to provide someone help from those situations gives me my purpose.”

In his experiences, Ball realized that no feat in his career is faced alone. Whether it was progressing in his career or responding to emergencies, Ball must be able to rely on his wingmen to be successful. “It takes an army to get you where you want to go in the Air Force or anywhere in life really,” says Ball. “You can’t do military service alone, so having peers and mentors around you to inspire and expect the best from you is paramount.”

Ball understands that his role is no different than what’s expected of his fellow Airmen. He strived to build a basis of knowledge that others could lean on when obstacles befall their path. “Sergeant Ball has an extensive base of knowledge that can be relied upon to find answers when they’re needed,” says Tech. Sgt. Timothy Ingraham, 1st SOCES fire protection assistant chief. “He is an out-of-the-box thinker that brings ideas to the table rather than just problems with the expectation that someone else will find a solution.”

The world of being a firefighter in the military is an ever-changing one. While calls for duty range from local emergencies to overseas deployments, Ball’s confident the individuals surrounding him will outpace the adversity that follows. “Everyone here steps up without hesitation and takes care of their Airmen and wingmen,” Ball said. “It makes me beyond proud to be in an organization that can face this adversity and still manage to win awards for all the work we do here at Hurlburt.”

Base Access Procedures Change

The 96th Security Forces Squadron began 100 percent identification checks this month for anyone accessing the Eglin Air Force. Visitors who do not have a DOD issued ID card must obtain a visitor pass. “Our current security and information environment requires us to make this policy change,” said Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Geraghty, 96th Test Wing commander. “We’re committed to safeguarding Eglin’s vital national resources.”

Uniformed service members, their dependents (over the age of 16), DOD employees and retirees can sponsor these passes, which can be obtained at the East Gate and West Gate visitor control centers until the new Air Force Armament Museum VCC opens.

Passes are good for up to 60 days. However, if a visitor pass is required for more than 60 days, a commander’s approval is needed and can then be issued for up to a year except for retirees. Retirees with visitors will need to renew those passes every 60 days. Passes should be shredded or turned back into the VCC when no longer needed. People can also process REAL IDs into the Defense Biometric Identification System, a networked database system designed to easily verify access authorization of people entering military installations at the VCCs.

Registering a REAL ID in DBIDS will alleviate gate congestion if an ID card holder forgets it at home or in a CAC reader. The REAL ID can also be used by retirees to access the base if they lose their ID or it’s expired. Contact the 96th Test Wing Public Affairs Office at 850-882-3931.

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