Hurlburt Field editorial by Ralph Williams
Hurlburt Field is located next to the city of Fort Walton Beach, a short distance west of Eglin Air Force Base. It is home to many U.S. Air Force Special Operations commands including the Air Force Special Operations School whose purpose is to turn skilled Airmen into Air Commandos.
The base began as an outlying airfield to Eglin AFB in the early 1940s (Auxiliary Field No. 9) and was later named after First Lieutenant Donald W. Hurlburt, a decorated combat pilot who died in an aircraft accident at Eglin AFB in 1943. The base, when it was first established, was one of the first bombing and gunnery training fields as part of the Eglin Air Force Base complex. During World War Two, Hurlburt Field was also used as a development site for early U.S. drones and missiles. Today, the base’s current mission is as a home to many Air Force Special Operations commands. The Air Force Special Operations have their origins before World War Two with units such as the 1st Air Commando Group who provided fighter cover, airstrikes and airlifting supplies, and personnel for “Wingate’s Raiders,” an Allied army that operated deep behind enemy lines against the Japanese in Burma. During the Vietnam War, Air Force Special Operations capabilities expanded in their scope and increased in its counterinsurgency capabilities. The Air Force Special Operations forces have been involved in the military actions of Panama, Grenada, the First Gulf War, Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, and actions since. The 1st Special Operations Wing by the end of 2007 had flown more than 38,000 combat missions accumulating more than 115,000 flying hours in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The 1 SOW fulfills needs not met by the rest of the Air Force, by providing a rapid reaction force for global special operations tasks. A list of the Wing’s capabilities includes close air support, airlift, airdrop, interdiction, infiltration, exfiltration, supply and resupply, psychological operations support, search and rescue, combat search and rescue, navigational path-finding, and varied and secure communications for its joint military customers. The wing’s motto refers to its ability to perform these tasks, “Any Time, Any Place.”
Facilities and Quality of Life
Hurlburt Field offers excellent facilities at a desirable location on the Florida Emerald Coast. These facilities include a 60,000 square foot size base exchange and 64,000 square foot size commissary, an Air Force Inn, a family friendly aquatic center with a full sized and kiddie pools, a marina with many rental watercraft, a dive shop, fitness centers, a bowling alley, a chapel, an 18 hole golf course, two dining facilities, several fast food outlets, and two all ranks clubs. Those stationed with families will benefit from extensive family services like a child development center, family child care program, school-age care program, and youth center. The base is open to all military ID holders and retirees. Near the Gulf of Mexico in the Panhandle of Western Florida, the quality of life is tranquil with interruptions only due to thunderstorms and hurricane season. The region is beautiful, its snowy white beaches draw tourists from around the world. Cities nearby are Niceville, Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Pensacola to the west, and Panama City to the east.
There is an Air Force Inn on base and a FAMcamp adjacent off base with 48 paved RV spaces. These accommodations are available to active duty and retired military members, DOD civilians and their families and guests. Also close nearby is a recreational area for the Department of Defense, called Eglin Beach Park. It is located on Okaloosa Island just west of the Destin Bridge. The facility features large pavilions, a central deck area, restrooms with showers, and access to the Gulf. Online comments drew praise to the park for its clean sandy white beach and isolation from large crowds. At nearby Eglin AFB are areas for camping including parks at Camp Robbins that offer 60 sites with concrete, 20 tent sites, a bathhouse, and a laundry room, another park at Postal Point is located adjacent to the Outdoor Recreation Center with 20 sites available.
Military Displays and Shows
Located at Hurlburt Field is the Hurlburt Field Memorial Park, a large outdoor museum of many static displays of aircraft used by special operations forces, such as an H-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopter and AC-130A Spectre gunship. At nearby Eglin AFB is the U.S. Air Force Armament Museum. Both museums have free admission and are open to the public. It features 25 static aircraft, a wide variety of bombs, missiles, rockets, and numerous interactive displays spanning from World War One era to today’s elite forces. Air shows are often scheduled annually at Eglin AFB or at nearby NAS Pensacola, home of the Navy’s Blue Angels flying team.
Emerald Coast Area
Located on the beautiful coastline of the Gulf of Mexico on Florida’s Emerald Coast, Hurlburt Field lies in a warm climate area with peaceful white beaches and emerald blue waters that attract vacationers from around the country and around the world. The base prides itself with the way it cares for its service members with a wide range of recreational opportunities and excellent housing and dining options. Home to the U.S. Air Force Special Operations School and 1st Special Operations Wing, Hurlburt Field has a brave and prestigious history to take pride in.