UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Pope AFB, North Carolina

Pope Air Force Base, NC, is located on the northern edge of the city of Fayetteville and adjacent to Fort Bragg. Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base comprise one of the world's largest military installations. Pope is approximately sixty miles south southwest of Raleigh and one hundred miles east of Charlotte. Pope Air Force Base is home to the 43rd Airlift Wing and two tenant units: the 23rd Fighter Group and the 18th Air Support Operations Group. The 43d Airlift Wing at Pope AFB provides contingency airlift to the 82d Airborne Division and other special units at Fort Bragg right next door. Pope Air Force Base has played a leading role in the development of U.S. tactics and air-power throughout history. Missions at Pope range from providing airlift and close air support to American armed forces, to humanitarian missions flown all over the world.

Pope AFB encompasses 2,194 acres located southwest of the Little River and 10 mi northwest of Fayetteville, North Carolina. The lands under the jurisdiction of Pope AFB include the main base (1,893 acres), the Laketree Site and Railroad strip (112 acres), the New Munitions Storage Area (173 acres), the Localizer site (less than 1 acre), Middle Marker site (2 acres), Outer Marker site (2 acres), MARS Station (less than 1 acre), and Old Munitions Storage Area (10 acres). There are 460 buildings on the base. The population of Pope AFB is approximately 4,700 military personnel and 1,150 dependents (USAF, 43 MSS/DPMD, 1996). The civilian work force includes approximately 315 General Schedule (GS) and Wage Grade (WG), 190 Non-Appropriated Fund (NAF), and 150 contractor personnel.

Today, Pope supports the Air Force under the Air Mobility Command with Rapid Global Mobility. C-130 Hercules aircraft fly people, equipment, and supplies all over the world to support the far-reaching military obligations of the United States. Personnel and aircraft of Pope Air Force Base have been involved in humanitarian disaster relief, presidential directed combat actions like Operations URGENT FURY in Grenada, JUST CAUSE in Panama, DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM in Southwest Asia, as well as supporting Fort Bragg's Airborne and Special Operations paratroopers.

On April 1, 1997, the 43rd Airlift Wing activated as the host wing at Pope under Air Mobility Command with the 2nd and 41st Airlift Squadrons flying C-130s. The designation of the composite wing went to the 23rd Fighter Group, which became a tenant unit under Air Combat Command, flying A-10s with the 74th and 75th Fighter Squadrons.

Pope is home to the 23rd Fighter Group, an Air Combat Command unit, flying A/OA-10 Thunderbolt II close air support aircraft. Personnel and aircraft from the 23rd fly missions supporting contingencies - wartime and peacetime - at home and abroad in areas such as Bosnia and Southwest Asia.

Pope AFB is the site of the biennial International Air Mobility Rodeo competition. Volant Rodeo is Air Mobility Command's (AMC) premier air mobility competition. In 2000, more than 80 aircraft representing over 100 teams from 17 countries, along with 3,500 competitors, observers, umpires, and support people showed up to do what they do best. The first Rodeo was held at Pope AFB in 1962 and was designed as a combat skills competition to develop and improve techniques and procedures, while enhancing air mobility operations, and promoting "esprit de corps." Rodeo has evolved to include teams from all over the world, competing in areas including airdrop, aerial refueling, aircraft navigation, special tactics, short-field landings, maintenance, cargo loading, engine-running on/offloads, aeromedical evacuations, and security forces operations.

Woodland Heights is the newest housing for junior enlisted families at Pope. The four buildings are the first of 84 duplexes, a total of 168 two-story units being built at Pope for junior enlisted airmen. Savannah District has oversight on the $18 million design/build project for the base. Woodland Heights features spacious yards, sidewalk-lined streets, and a jogging trail that circles the large neighborhood.

For years the 43rd Airlift has done the hazardous cargo part of this mission on four aircraft parking spots at the south corner of the airfield. Fort Bragg's deployment requirements justify up to 12 parking spots, but explosives safety zone requirements limited real estate reduced expansion possibilities. Through detailed coordination and planning, the Air Force developed a site plan that would replace the four parking spots with an apron (2,025x730 feet) large enough to handle six C-5 aircraft (or many smaller airplanes) and comply with the explosives safety criteria. The project would not only increase loading capacity by 50 percent, but also enhance mission capability by including a 600 gallon-per-minute aircraft hydrant fueling system to serve each parking spot, alleviating the need for fuel trucks. About 19 acres of wetlands would be displaced permanently or temporarily during construction of the parking apron. The impacted acreage includes part of Tank Creek, an active stream on Pope AFB that supports a diverse ecological environment and is a major drainage channel for storm water run-off from Fort Bragg. Both Bragg's restoration/mitigation efforts and Pope's Dangerous Cargo Apron project are under way and are either on or ahead of schedule. The $23.5 million dangerous cargo apron project will be completed no later than February 2004.

Attention at Pope Air Force Base is centered on a proposed runway extension. The base is looking for $50 million to extend its 7,500-foot runway an additional 3,000 feet. The Army is spending about $103 million to improve the Green Ramp area on Pope, where troops and cargo are loaded onto Pope's C-130 airplanes. The Air Force is already spending about $33 million to improve the area where airplanes carrying explosives and hazardous cargo are fueled. In the meantime, an environmental impact study on the proposed runway extension has been completed. The base is waiting for Congress to find the money for the project.


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. It is named after First Lieutenant Harley Halbert Pope who was killed on January 7, 1919, when the 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. Spotting for artillery, detecting forest fires, and carrying the mail. In December 1927, Pope 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 Army Air Service 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 WWII.

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 Camp 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.

After the war, Pope Field became an Air Force Base with the creation of the U.S. Air Force on Sep 18, 1947. The base served as the home of the 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing from 1947 until 1950, when Headquarters 9th Air Force moved to the base. During the next four years, the base primary mission dealt with training Forward Air Controllers for the Korean War.

In 1954, 9th AF turned the base over to a troop carrier wing that specialized in tactical airlift. In October 1954, the 464th Troop Carrier Wing transferred to Pope AFB, and a major period of facility expansion followed. The main runway, the taxiways, and the ramp were all expanded to support the 464th's C-119 Flying Boxcars. During the 1950s and 1960s, aircraft upgrade was the primary trend at the North Carolina installation. The C-123 Provider started replacing the C-119 in 1958, and in 1963, the first C-130 Hercules arrived, appropriately named "The North Carolina."

As America became involved in Vietnam, the need to train large numbers of aircrews to fully use the unique capabilities of the C-130 led to the establishment of an aircrew replacement training unit. The drop zones, low-level routes, and dirt landing zones at Fort Bragg became familiar to many men bound for South-east Asia. The training gained in operating in the North Carolina area immeasurably improved aircrew preparedness for combat duty. In August 1971, the 464th inactivated and the 317th Tactical Airlift Wing administratively moved to Pope AFB.

BRAC 2005

Secretary of Defense Recommendations: Realign Pope Air Force Base, NC. Distribute the 43rd Airlift Wing's C-130E aircraft (25 aircraft) to the 314th Airlift Wing, Little Rock Air Force Base, AR; realign the 23rd Fighter Group's A-10 aircraft (36 aircraft) to Moody Air Force Base, GA; transfer real property accountability to the Army; disestablish the 43rd Medical Group and establish a medical squadron. At Little Rock Air Force Base, AR, realign eight C-130E aircraft to backup inventory; retire 27 C-130Es; realign one C-130J aircraft to the 143rd Airlift Wing (ANG), Quonset State Airport Air Guard Station, RI; two C-130Js to the 146th Airlift Wing (ANG), Channel Islands Air Guard Station, CA; and transfer four C-130Js from the 314th Airlift Wing (AD) to the 189th Airlift Wing (ANG), Little Rock Air Force Base.

In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to close Fort Gillem, GA and Ft. McPherson, GA. It recommended relocating the Headquarters US Forces Command (FORSCOM) VIP Explosive Ordnance Support from Ft. Gillem and the Headquarters US Army Reserve Command (USARC) from Ft. McPherson to Pope Air Force Base, NC. FORSCOM HQs would be relocated to Pope AFB where it would be co-located with a large concentration of operational forces. The USARC HQs would have a mission relationship with FORSCOM that would be enhanced by leaving the two co-located. Construction at Pope AFB might have to occur on acreage already constrained by TES.

In another Recommendation, DoD recommended to realign Pope AFB, NC. It would distribute the 43d Airlift Wing's C-130E aircraft (25 aircraft) to the 314th Airlift Wing, Little Rock AFB, AR, realign the 23d Fighter Group's A-10 aircraft (36 aircraft) to Moody AFB, GA; transfer real property accountability to the Army; disestablish the 43rd Medical Group and establish a medical squadron. In the same recommendation, DoD would realign Yeager Airport AGS, WV, by realigning eight C-130H aircraft to Pope/Fort Bragg to form a 16 aircraft Air Force Reserve/active duty associate unit.

DoD also recommended to close Pittsburgh International Airport (IAP) Air Reserve Station (ARS), PA, and relocate 911th Airlift Wing's (AFRC) eight C-130H aircraft to Pope/Fort Bragg to form a 16 aircraft Air Force Reserve/active duty associate unit. It would also Relocate AFRC operations and maintenance manpower to Pope/Fort Bragg.

Secretary of Defense Justification: Downsizing Pope Air Force Base would take advantage of mission-specific consolidation opportunities to reduce operational costs, maintenance costs and the manpower footprint. The smaller manpower footprint would facilitate transfer of the installation to the Army. At Pope, the synergistic, multi-service relationship would continue between Army airborne and Air Force airlift forces with the creation of an active duty/Reserve associate unit. Active duty C-130s and A-10s would move to Little Rock (17-airlift) and Moody (11-SOF/CSAR), respectively, to consolidate force structure at those two bases and enable Army recommendations at Pope. With the disestablishment of the 43rd Medical Group, the AF would maintain the required manpower to provide primary care, flight and occupational medicine to support the Air Force active duty military members. The Army would maintain the required manpower necessary to provide primary care, flight, and occupational medicine to support the Army active duty military members. The Army would provide ancillary and specialty medical services for all assigned Army and Air Force military members (lab, x-ray, pharmacy, etc). Assuming no economic recovery, this recommendation could result in a maximum potential reduction of 7,840 jobs (4,700 direct jobs and 3,140 indirect jobs) over the 2006-2011 period in the Fayetteville, NC, Metropolitan Statistical economic area (4.0 percent).

The major command's capacity briefing reported Pittsburgh ARS land constraints prevented the installation from hosting more than 10 C-130 aircraft, and Yeager AGS cannot support more than eight C-130s. Careful analysis of mission capability indicates that it is more appropriate to increase the proposed airlift mission at Fort Bragg to an optimal 16 aircraft C-130 squadron, which provides greater military value and offers unique opportunities for Jointness.

This smaller recommendation has the potential to impact wetlands at Pope AFB and Shaw AFB. DoD estimated that this recommendation would have no impact on dredging; marine mammals, resources, or sanctuaries; or waste management. This recommendation would not otherwise impact the costs of environmental restoration, waste management, and environmental compliance activities. DoD reviewed the aggregate environmental impact of all recommended BRAC actions affecting the installations in this recommendation. There would be no known environmental impediments to implementation of this recommendation.

Community Concerns: Representatives from the Pope Air Force Base (AFB) community expressed concerns about the effect of the recommendations on safety and Army operations. They maintained that safety is paramount at Pope AFB. It was noted that DoD's recommendation would not change the mission at Pope and that air transport is the most critical aspect of the nation's power projection capability. Community representatives stated "current leadership at Pope/Fort Bragg would execute the mission and make it successful" but that "it would be unique [in] the Army to run an airfield of the magnitude and operations tempo of Pope." It was suggested that costs could actually increase if the Army were to take over the installation because of the additional costs associated with contracted labor. The example cited was that a civilian air traffic controller salary is three times that of a military air traffic controller. Community representatives recommended instead that Pope AFB become a C-130J Operational Center of Excellence. The C-130J is air-refuelable, making it very conducive to the mission of Fort Bragg. The same concerns were expressed about the Commission's vote to consider expanding the scope of realignment of Pope as well.

Commission Findings: The Department of Defense recommendation for realigning Pope Air Force Base, NC; closing the Pittsburgh IAP ARS PA; and realigning Yeager Air Guard Station (AGS), WV was part of a larger effort to restructure the C-130 fleet. The need for restructuring was driven by the age of the C-130E model aircraft and the participation in the replacement C-130J procurement program.

Given the importance of airlift to the Fort Bragg mission, there was concern regarding how the Air Force recommendation would be implemented. Other than the recommendation to form an Active Duty/Reserve Associate unit with the 16 C-130s transferred to Pope from Yeager and Pittsburgh, there was no discussion of how airlift operations would continue to be conducted in support of Fort Bragg. Particular concern focused on the loss of an execution planning cell and the informal working relationships that currently exists between elements at Fort Bragg and the 43rd Airlift Wing at Pope. In light of the importance of the Fort Bragg mission to national security, the Commission found the proposed action had the potential to detrimentally affect that mission. Therefore, the Commission modified the DoD recommendation to establish an Air Force Air Operation Support Group at Pope AFB.

Commission Recommendations: The Commission found that the Secretary of Defense deviated substantially from final selection criteria 1, 2 and 3, as well as from the Force Structure Plan. Therefore, the Commission recommends the following:

Realign Pope Air Force Base, NC. Distribute the 25 C-130E aircraft assigned to the 43d Air Lift Wing and the 36 A-10 aircraft assigned to the 23d Fighter Group to meet the Primary Aircraft Authorizations (PAA) requirements established by the Base Closure and Realignment recommendations of the Secretary of Defense, as amended by the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission.

Establish 16 PAA C-130H aircraft at Pope Army Air Field, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Transfer real property accountability to the Army; disestablish the 43d Medical Group and establish a medical squadron. The Air Force will establish an Air Support Operations Group to provide unity of command of Air Force units on Pope Army Air Field, mission execution planning, and management of efficient loadout of Fort Bragg assets.

The Commission found that this change and the recommendation as amended are consistent with the final selection criteria and the Force Structure Plan. The full text of this and all Commission recommendations can be found in Appendix Q.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:55:37 ZULU