Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Army to assume responsibility for Pope Air Force Base

The C-130 Hercules aircraft displays the Fort Bragg-Pope Field tail flashing of the 440th Airlift Wing at Field, N.C. The former air force base was redesignated Pope Field March 1, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Peter R. Miller)

FORT BRAGG-POPE FIELD, N.C. (AFNS) -- Pope Air Force Base became Pope Field March 1 as it transitioned to be an Army operated facility supporting Air Force operations.

Several Air Force units were redesignated or inactivated, marking a significant moment in Air Force history.

The signing of a proclamation by Col. Stephen Sicinski, the Fort Bragg Garrison commander, and Col. Paul Kucharek, the 43rd Operations Group commander, marked the handover of responsibility for Pope Field.

Colonel Kucharek presided over the inactivation of Pope AFB's mission support group, maintenance group, contracting squadron, security forces squadron, communication squadron and civil engineer squadron whose missions 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," Colonel Sicinski said.

The War Department officially established "Pope Field" in 1919 and 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.

Today, Pope Field 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.

The 43rd OG, a vital part of Pope Field's continuing mission, was redesignated the 43rd Air Group during the ceremony, and the 43rd Air Wing was inactivated.

The changes that the Fort Bragg-Pope Field community will notice will be minor, Colonel Sicinski said, but will go a long way to providing consistent quality of life services to all of Fort Bragg's uniformed service members and their families.

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.

Religious support for all of Fort Bragg and Pope Field will be under one management. Post-wide emergency services will be centrally managed.

Gates that 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 Field will, also assume duties the 43rd AW previously had.

"In most instances Airmen will only notice a difference in uniforms," said Col. John Stokes, the 440th Airlift Wing vice commander. "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. "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 (Air Force Reserve Command, Air Mobility Command, Air Education and Training Command, Air Force Special Operations Command and Air Combat Command) will still have units operating at Pope Field."