An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Pope Holds ‘Special Place In Heart’

  • Published
  • By Col. Michael Thornton
  • 43rd Operations Group Commander
The last 25 months at Pope has been one of the very best assignments of my career. It has been an extraordinary honor and privilege to serve as the 43rd Airlift Wing Operations Group Commander. 

My first experience at Pope was in the mid '80s (makes me sound old...), where I flew several Joint Airdrop Training missions off of the Green Ramp as a second lieutenant. The pace of activity during those missions was fast and furious, but I always have fond memories of my time at Pope. The operations group that I leave in the hands of Col. Donald Kimminau is far different from those early days and very different from the one I inherited just two years ago. 

The Base Realignment and Closure Act changes we have experienced have changed Pope significantly. The 41st Airlift Squadron has moved to Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. The 2nd Airlift Squadron and 43rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron have established reverse association with the 440th Airlift Wing . The Pope ramp once highly populated with C-130E models now houses only a handful of C-130H2 aircraft provided by the Air Force Reserve Command. The 43rd Maintenance Squadron has now integrated with the 2nd AS. To say the least, we have gone through some tremendous change yet all the while continued to support the Global War on Terrorism. 

The Airmen of the 43rd OG have excelled at an incredible level; they have earned multiple awards which include Department of Defense, Air Combat Command, Air Mobility Command, Mobility Air Forces, Wing and Pope level awards. I am just in awe at the incredibly high level of performance they have delivered day in and day out under incredibly demanding circumstances. 

I leave as I entered: very impressed with the Airmen at Pope. I have watched you deploy and return from back to back GWOT taskings and each time, you had a smile on your face. 

I joined you for a four-month stint at the 'Deid and watched you stand shoulder to shoulder with our joint partners as true professionals. As I depart I will carry great memories of how the Airmen at Pope always set the standard for success for the rest of AMC as well as the entire Air Force. Pope will always hold a special place in my, fight, win! 

Col. Michael Thornton, 43rd Operations Group Commander prepares for the historic final flight of the last C-130E to be stationed at Pope June 27. The flight was historic for the colonel as well, since it was his final C-130 flight as the 43rd OG Commander and ended at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., the site of the his first C-130 flight.