|Part of Air Mobility Command (AMC)|
|Located near: Fayetteville, North Carolina|
|Controlled by||United States Army|
|IATA: POB – ICAO: KPOB – FAA LID: POB|
|Elevation AMSL||217 ft / 66 m|
|Sources: official website and FAA|
Pope Field (IATA: POB, ICAO: KPOB, FAA LID: POB) is a military facility located 12 miles (19 km) northwest of the central business district of Fayetteville, in Cumberland County, North Carolina United States. Formerly known as Pope Air Force Base, the facility continues to be used by the U.S. Air Force but is now operated by the U.S. Army as part of Fort Bragg.
The United States Army Fort Bragg Garrison is the host organization at Pope Field. The garrison provides airfield support, security, and protection to include emergency medical and fire response, aircraft security and transient alert support. It also provides installation support and is responsible to execute the Inter Service Support Agreement in providing support to the Air Force tenants to include services, facility maintenance, and morale, welfare and recreation support.
The United States Air Force 43d Airlift Group was activated at Pope on March 1, 2011. The unit performs en route operations support to include mission command & control, aircrew management, aircraft maintenance, aircraft loading, aircraft fueling and supply.
In addition, the USAF 18th Air Support Operations Group, 427th Special Operations Squadron, 21st Special Tactics Squadron, 24th Special Tactics Squadron, and Air Force Combat Control School operate from Pope Field.
The USAF 440th Airlift Wing is a United States Air Force Reserve unit performs airfield operations to include airfield management, weather forecasting, airfield tower control, airfield navigation and landing systems’ maintenance. The 440th AW is the first Air Force Reserve Wing to have an active duty associate squadron, the 2d Airlift Squadron, which is assigned to the 43d, and shares the airlift mission with the 440th's 95th Airlift Squadron. The association has 16 C-130's. The 43d also has an Air Evacuation Squadron assigned, the 43d AES, which shares the AE mission with the 440th's 36th Air Evacuation Squadron.
In 1918, Congress established Camp Bragg, an Army field artillery site named for the Confederate General Braxton Bragg. An aviation landing field was added a year later. The War Department officially established "Pope Field" in 1919, and it ranks as one of the oldest installations in the Air Force.
Pope AFB is named after First Lieutenant Harley Halbert Pope who was killed on January 7, 1919, when the Curtiss JN-4 Jenny he was flying crashed into the Cape Fear River. After five years, Camp Bragg became a permanent Army post renamed Fort Bragg.
Original operations included photographing terrain for mapping, carrying the mail, and spotting for artillery and forest fires. Observation planes and observation balloons occupied Pope Field for the first eight years. In December 1927, Pope Field played a role in the development of tactics that would prove critically important in shortening World War II.
The 1930s saw the first major expansion of the facilities at Pope. In 1935, Pope Field hosted 535 aircraft in one day as the United States Army Air Corps practiced large scale operations along the East Coast. In 1940, paved runways replaced dirt open fields. Much of the parking ramp space remained unpaved until after World War II.
The tempo of activities at Pope quickened with the outbreak of World War II. During the 1940s, the base swelled as a troop carrier training site, and with the institution of paratrooper training at Fort Bragg, Pope began putting the “Air” in “Airborne.” Throughout the war, air and ground crews trained here with Army airborne units in preparation for airborne and aerial resupply missions.
10th Tactical Reconnaissance Group
After the war, Pope Field became Pope Air Force Base with the creation of the United States Air Force on 18 September 1947. The base served as the home of the 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Group, being activated at Pope on December 3, 1947 as the 10th Reconnaissance Group. It was redesignated as the 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Group in June 1948. At Pope, the 10th flew the P/F-51 Mustang, as well as its photo recon variant the F-6, later redesignated the RF-51. Operational squadrons were:
- 1st Photographic Reconnaissance
- 15th Photographic Reconnaissance
4415th Air Base Group
The 10th TRG was inactivated on April 1, 1949 and the host unit at Pope was the 4415th Air Base Group. The base primary mission dealt with training Forward Air Controllers for the Korean War This training was conducted by the following operational units:
- 502d Tactical Control Group (June 27, 1949 – August 27, 1950)
- 507th Tactical Control Group (September 2, 1950 – July 1, 1954)
464th Troop Carrier Wing
- 776th Troop Carrier Squadron (transferred to Pacific Air Forces in December, 1965)
- 777th Troop Carrier Squadron
- 778th Troop Carrier Squadron
- 779th Troop Carrier Squadron
The 464th (on 1 August 1966 all troop carrier units were redesignated as "tactical airlift") provided airlift of troops and cargo, participated in joint airborne training with Army forces, and took part in tactical exercises in the United States and overseas. The wing provided aeromedical airlift and flew humanitarian missions as required. Until it was inactivated, the 464th usually had two or more squadrons deployed overseas at any one time, supporting military operations in Central America, Europe, the Middle East, the Far East, and Southeast Asia.
The 464th received the Mackay Trophy for the dramatic RED DRAGON/DRAGON ROUGE and BLACK DRAGON/DRAGON NOIR hostage rescue missions in the Congo in 1964. The wing led the deployment of 82nd Airborne forces to the Dominican Republic, April 1965-September 1966. Beginning in 1966, the 464th was responsible for training C-130E aircrew members for duty in troop carrier units in the United States and overseas.
During its time at Pope, a major period of facility expansion occurred. The main runway, the taxiways, and the ramp were all expanded to support the 464th’s Fairchild C-119 "Flying Boxcar"s operations. During the 1950s and 1960s, aircraft upgrade was the primary trend at the North Carolina installation. The Fairchild C-123 Provider started replacing the C-119 in 1958, and in 1963, the first C-130 Hercules arrived, appropriately named “The North Carolina.”
317th Tactical Airlift Wing
- 39th Tactical Airlift Squadron (PB - blue tail stripe)
- 40th Tactical Airlift Squadron (PG/PB - green tail stripe)
- 41st Tactical Airlift Squadron (PR/PB - red tail stripe)
The 317th TAW flew the C-130E aircraft. After June 1972, the squadron tail codes were standardized with "PB", representing (Pope/Bragg).
The drop zones, low-level routes, and dirt landing zones at Fort Bragg became familiar to many men bound for Southeast Asia. The training gained in operating in the North Carolina area immeasurably improved aircrew preparedness for combat duty. The wing was a pioneer in the use of adverse weather aerial delivery system (AWADS) equipment in active combat operations in Southeast Asia, and after the end of American involvement, trained European-based NATO aircrews in those same techniques.
During the Vietnam War, Pope was the destination for the bodies of servicemen killed in Southeast Asia. When identification was confirmed, the bodies were sent to their hometowns or the appropriate military cemeteries for burial.
On December 1, 1974 the Military Airlift Command took responsibility for tactical airlift and assumed command of Pope with all of its assigned units. Under MAC, the two-digit tail code designation of the 317th's aircraft was removed.
On January 1, 1992 the 317th TAW was reassigned to Air Mobility Command and the wing was redesignated the 317th Operations Group as part of the new 23d Composite Wing (23d Wing) at Pope. On June 1, 1992 the 317th OG was inactivated. As part of the inactivation, its operational squadrons were dissolved as follows:
- 39th Airlift Squadron -> Activated 1 October 1993 with the 7th Wing, Dyess AFB, Texas
Replaced at Pope by the 2d Airlift Squadron assigned to the 23d Composite Wing (23d Wing)
- 40th Airlift Squadron -> Activated 1 October 1993 with the 7th Wing, Dyess AFB, Texas
- 41st Airlift Squadron - Reassigned to the 23d Composite Wing (23d Wing)
Lessons learned in the Gulf War in 1990-1991 led senior defense planners to conclude that the structure of the military establishment created numerous command and control problems. Senior planners reviewed numerous options before agreeing on the final conclusion – a merger of most strategic and tactical air resources and the transfer of the tactical airlift squadrons out of the Military Airlift Command due to their combat orientation. In addition, the number of Air Force wings was to be reduced by about one-third to reflect the financial constraints of the post Cold War environment.
These changes led to Pope Air Force Base being transferred to the new Air Combat Command upon its activation on June 1, 1992. Also, the 317th TAW was blended into the new 23d Wing on 1 June 1992 when the 23d Fighter Wing at England Air Force Base Louisiana was transferred to Pope after England's Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) 1991 closing.
In April 1992, A/OA-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft were transferred to the 75th Fighter Squadron from the 353d FS / 354th FW at Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, South Carolina prior to the wing's inactivation and the base's closure in January 1993. In June 1993, Block 40 F-16C/Ds were transferred to the 74th Fighter Squadron from the 347th FW at Moody and 388th FW at Hill.
Operational squadrons of the 23d Wing at Pope were:
- 317th Group
- 23d Group
In December 1992, C-130s from the 2d Airlift Squadron deployed to Mombasa, Kenya, to participate in Operation PROVIDE RELIEF. The aircraft and crews delivered tons of food and other relief supplies to small airstrips throughout Somalia. 23d Wing Flying Tiger C-130s were also been tasked to assist in other humanitarian relief efforts, to include Hurricane Andrew in Florida. They also airdropped relief supplies into Bosnia-Herzogovina and flew relief missions into Sarajevo for more than 28 months.
On March 23, 1994 two 23d Wing aircraft, an F-16 and a C-130, collided in the base's landing pattern. After the two crewmembers of the F-16 ejected from their damaged fighter, the unmanned aircraft crashed into an aircraft parking ramp and hit a C-141 transport aircraft parked on the ramp. The resulting fireball and flaming wreckage killed 24 United States Army paratroopers who were waiting nearby to load the transports and injured almost 100 more paratroopers in what is known as the Green Ramp disaster.
In May 1994, the deployed 41st Airlift Squadron led the evacuation, known as Operation Tiger Rescue, of U.S. personnel from Yemen.
In September 1994, 23d Wing Flying Tiger C-130s participated in what was to be the largest combat personnel drop since World War II, Operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY. They were to assist in dropping more than 3,000 paratroopers from the 82d Airborne Division onto Port au Prince Airport, Haiti. The invasion force was recalled at the last minute after word that the Haitian president had resigned upon hearing that the aircraft were on their way. The 75th Fighter Squadron's A-10s were also involved in UPHOLD DEMOCRACY. The squadron deployed their aircraft to Shaw AFB, South Carolina, where they were scheduled to launch close air support operations for the invasion force before recovering in Puerto Rico.
The first operational deployment of a composite wing happened in October 1994, when Iraqi troops began massing near the Kuwaiti Border. Within 72 hours, 56 aircraft and 1,500 people deployed to the Persian Gulf region for Operation VIGILANT WARRIOR. Eventually, the 75th Fighter Squadron redeployed to Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait, becoming the first U.S. fixed-wing aircraft to be stationed in that country since the end of the Gulf War.
On July 1, 1996, the 74th Fighter Squadron's F-16C/D Fighting Falcons were transferred to the 27FW / 524th FS at Cannon AFB New Mexico, and the squadron transitioned to A/OA-10 Thunderbolt IIs received from the 20FW / 55th FS at Shaw AFB South Carolina. This gave the 23d Wing a 2nd A-10 squadron.
The 23d Wing won its fifth Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for the period of May 31, 1995 through March 31, 1997. On April 1, 1997, the 23d Wing was inactivated and the C-130s and Pope Air Force Base were realigned to Air Mobility Command under the 43d Airlift Wing designation.
On the same day, the 23d Fighter Group was activated at Pope Air Force Base as a tenant unit aligned under the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, NC remaining in Air Combat Command. The 74th Fighter Squadron, 75th Fighter Squadron, 23d Operations Support Squadron, and the 23d Maintenance Squadron remained part of the group. Several of these planes provided the missing-man formation at the conclusion of the National Anthem at Super Bowl XXXII at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego on January 25, 1998.
The 23rd Fighter Group rejoined the 23rd Wing in a ceremony held on August 18, 2006 at Pope. The group relocated to Moody Air Force Base Georgia as a result of BRAC 2005. On December 19, 2007, the last three of the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft left for Moody AFB.
Merger with Fort Bragg
In the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Plan, the Department of Defense started its plan to realign Pope AFB, NC. The plan called for moving the 23d Fighter Group’s 36 A-10 Thunderbolt II (Warthogs) to Moody AFB, Georgia and the 43d Airlift Wing's 25 C-130E's to Little Rock AFB, Arkansas.
- Fort Bragg, North Carolina
- Tactical Air Command
- Air Combat Command
- Ninth Air Force
- North Carolina World War II Army Airfields
- I Troop Carrier Command
- Green Ramp disaster
- Pope Field (formerly Pope AFB), official website
- FAA Airport Master Record for POB – Pope Field ( PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. Effective November 15, 2012.
- "Fort Bragg takes over Pope Air Force Base under BRAC". U.S. Army. February 25, 2011. "Pope Air Force Base becomes Pope Field, an Army operated facility supporting Air Force operations"
- "Army to assume responsibility for Pope Air Force Base". U.S. Air Force. March 1, 2011. "Pope Air Force Base became Pope Field March 1"
- "Pope Air Force Base becomes Army's field". The Fayetteville Observer. March 1, 2011. "Pope Air Force Base officially reverted to its former name and role as Fort Bragg's Pope Field."
- Clancy, Tom. Without Remorse. Putnam/Berkley paperback, 1994. pp.179-180 of Berkley ed.
- This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.
- Endicott, Judy G., ed. (2001). The USAF in Korea, Campaigns, Units and Stations 1950-1953. Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency. ISBN 0-16-050901-7.
- Mueller, Robert (1989). Air Force Bases, Vol. I, Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982. Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-53-6.
- Martin, Patrick (1994). Tail Code: The Complete History of USAF Tactical Aircraft Tail Code Markings. Schiffer Military Aviation History. ISBN 0-88740-513-4.
- Ravenstein, Charles A (1984). Air Force Combat Wings', Lineage & Honors Histories 1947-1977. Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.
- Rogers, Brian (2005). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Hinkley, England: Midland Publications. ISBN 1-85780-197-0.
-  USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers–1908 to present
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Pope Air Force Base.|
- Pope Field (www.pope.af.mil), official website
- Pope Air Force Base (www.pope.af.mil) at the Wayback Machine (archived October 26, 2010)
- Mary Ellen Condon-Rall: Disaster on Green Ramp: The Army's Response, United States Army Center of Military History, Washington 1996.
- Aviation: From Sand Dunes to Sonic Booms, a National Park Service Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary
- Pope Air Force Base Relocation Information and Pope AFB Q&A
- (PDF), effective July 24, 2014
- FAA Terminal Procedures for POB, effective July 24, 2014
- Resources for this U.S. military airport: