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Thank You, Team Pope

  • Published
  • By Col. Timothy Zadalis
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Commander
As Carol and I near the end of our time here at Pope, we leave with mixed feelings. 
There's always the excitement that comes with moving to a new area, a new job and a new challenge. But we will truly miss everything about this base -- the mission, the people and the community. 

Pope has one of the busiest and most important missions in the Air Force. When we deploy -- and we do it often -- we are at the forefront of the Global War on Terror. Our Airmen have been responsible for evacuating wounded troops so they can receive more comprehensive medical care. They have been pulling dangerous convoy duty, getting vital supplies and equipment to the front lines where they are needed, while our C-130s have been very successful in reducing the number of those dangerous convoys. 

On the home front, we have supported humanitarian relief efforts in Texas and California. Even closer to home, our Airmen are working with organizations like Habitat for Humanity and the state veterans' nursing home to help improve the quality of life for people in our community who are less fortunate than we are. 

That is another thing we'll always remember about our time at Pope -- the people who make it run, and those who support the ones who make it run. I sometimes wonder where the Air Force finds people like we have here, people who will work 10-12 hours a day, then turn around and volunteer their precious free time to help others. And all of this is done between deployment rotations. 

Of course we'll miss this community as well. I made no secret of the fact that I always ask Carol one question at every base we've been assigned -- "Would you like to stay here when we retire." It's a testament to the local communities surrounding Pope and Fort Bragg that this is the first time she's said yes. These communities -- Fayetteville, Spring Lake, Hope Mills and the surrounding areas -- have shown support for our Airmen like no other community I've ever seen. From Fayetteville Cares, to Operation Welcome Home, to events like the Saturday's Salute to Our Troops in Raleigh and the Warriors on the Water fishing tournament, we are blessed to have so many people who support and care for our service members. When you have organizations like the Pope Special Activities Committee, which has raised more than $20,000 for Pope programs, you have something that few other bases enjoy. 

As we pack up for our move to New Jersey, we'll be packing some memories to take with us. Some will be bittersweet, like the knowledge that we have lost some members of our team over the past two years. Others will be very happy, like watching families welcome their returning warriors home after a long deployment. And others will be downright funny. How can we ever forget the huge speakers in my staff car for the Endurance Relay loud stereo contest or my stint as a rock star while playing Guitar Hero with Chief Grimm? 

While Carol and I leave you with heavy hearts, it is with the knowledge that we leave you in capable hands. I know that you'll support Col. John McDonald just as you supported me, and we'll continue showing the rest of the Air Force why Team Pope is the Pride of the Force.