HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD — The installation celebrated its 75th anniversary Tuesday at the Truscott Air Terminal with much pomp and circumstance, including the traditional cutting of the cake with a saber.
Before the ceremony, VIPs mingled and last-minute touches were attended to, including the cake, which was applauded as it was placed on its table in front of the audience. A projector at the front rotated through illustrations and old images of Hunter Army Airfield and aviation history.
Col. Kevin Gregory, Fort Stewart’s garrison commander, introduced the keynote speaker, Dr. Bill Cathcart, civilian aide to the U.S. secretary of the army. Cathcart is a former vice president and general manager of WTOC-TV and is active in community and military organizations in Savannah.
“Hunter truly is our military’s premier power projection platform,” Cathcart said. “A perfectly positioned catapult of freedom, launching to the fight whenever and wherever needed.
“Now for 75 years with profound performance excellence, Hunter has kept both our Army and our nation strong,” he said.
Cathcart went on to talk about the long history of Hunter, from World War II to Korea, Vietnam, and up today’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
From a humble municipal airfield at the city limits of Savannah in 1929, it formally received its current name in 1940 after Lt. Col. Frank O’Driscoll Hunter, a World War I flight ace. World War II saw the base deploy more than 70,000 crew members and 9,000 aircraft to Europe and the Pacific.
Lt. Col Clarence Bowman III, Hunter’s garrison commander, asked veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, the Persian Gulf War and the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to stand and be recognized. Then Cathcart, Gregory and Blackburn presented the memorial wreath with a replica of the original plaque that dedicated Hunter field.
Blackburn, Gregory and veteran representatives from conflicts past cut the ceremony’s cake with the help of a saber.
“We’re definitely happy to share (Hunter) with a city like Savannah and Chatham County,” Bowman said.
“I have been stationed at 16 different military installations between the Marine Corps and the Army, and I’ve never seen the type of community support we get here at Hunter Army Airfield from Savannah, Chatham County, coastal Georgia and coastal South Carolina,” he added. “This really was for the community as a ‘thank you’ for all the support, 75 years of support to our operations.”
And as if by its own tradition, cake, cookies, and refreshments were served in the terminal by volunteers of the USO in the same kind and generous manner as they are when troops arrive and depart from Hunter.
Community support seemed to come in all shapes and sizes, from a square brownie to a room filled with people singing the Army song, all of them keeping Hunter Army Airfield moving on strong.