Phase I of construction complete as AFSOC prepares to open Hurlburt Field airpark to public

  • Published
  • By U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Natalie Fiorilli
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

With names like Wicked Wanda, The Ultimate End and Big Daddy, there’s a story behind each aircraft and monument on display at the Hurlburt Field Memorial Airpark.

For the first time in more than 20 years, Hurlburt Field plans to open its airpark to the general public in spring 2024 - allowing visitors to see the aircraft first-hand and learn more about the history of Air Force Special Operations Command.

“We are dedicated to preserving the legacy of our Air Commandos and we want to share our mission - past, present and future - with our community,” said Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind, AFSOC commander. “We look forward to educating and inspiring our visitors about the rich heritage and traditions that we have here at Hurlburt Field and within AFSOC.”

The park, a one-hour drive from Pensacola, Florida and a three-hour drive from Tallahassee, Florida – features static displays of more than 20 aircraft, flown during eras ranging from World War II to the Korean War and Vietnam War through the Cold War, in addition to the Global War on Terror.

Aircraft featured in the park include an AC-119G Shadow, C-46D Commando, B-25J Mitchell, HH-3E Jolly Green, AC-47D Spooky, T-28A Trojan and an O-1E Bird Dog, to name a few.

“Even in their silence, airplanes tell a story,” said AFSOC historian Todd Schroeder. “They tell the story of our Air Commandos, operations, missions and achievements.”

Crews that flew on The Ultimate End, for example, remember March 4, 1972, as both the luckiest and unluckiest day of their lives. That night, enemy anti-aircraft artillery struck the AC-130A Spectre gunship, causing severe damage to the structure of the aircraft.

Likewise, Wicked Wanda, an AC-130H Spectre gunship on display at the airpark, deployed in nearly every conflict the U.S. has been involved in, officially and unofficially, since the end of the Vietnam War.

Big Daddy, on the other hand, earned its name as the “father” of the AC-130U Gunship fleet.

In addition to aircraft, the park includes memorials and monuments dedicated to honoring AFSOC heroes, including Master Sgt. John Chapman, a special tactics combat controller who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect his teammates during a conflict in Afghanistan in 2002 and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions.

“The airpark is special because it’s a tangible timeline of special operations and Hurlburt Field,” Schroeder added. “It shows how our Air Commandos innovated and adapted and never settled for the status-quo.”

At this time, officials expect the airpark to open to the public in spring 2024. Additionally, there are plans to expand the park to include a museum and heritage center at a later date.

As construction continues, visitors with base access are able to tour the north end of the airpark beginning Sept. 30, 2023.

Plans to expand the park are being coordinated in partnership with the Air Commando Association, a nonprofit veterans organization committed to preserving the heritage of Air Commandos and to honor their contributions. 

AFSOC would like to hear from all airpark stakeholders. Any individuals who represent the organizations with a memorial or monument in the airpark can reach out to AFSOC Public Affairs at no later than September 22, 2023 to receive information about upcoming area development planning meetings.