Hurlburt Field began as a single training field on Eglin Air Force Base. It was named after First Lieutenant Donald Wilson Hurlburt, who flew combat missions in England and received the Distinguished Flying Cross. In 1943, Lieutenant Hurlburt was assigned to Eglin Field, and died October 1, 1943 when he crashed during takeoff. Brigadier General Grandison Gardner, Eglin's base commander at the time, named the field in his honor. Originally called Eglin Auxiliary Field 9, Hurlburt Field received its current name in January of 1948. Lieutenant Hurlburt was also the uncle of Captain Craig Button, whose A-10 Thunderbolt mysteriously crashed in Colorado in 1997.
Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle and his team of Raiders began practicing short runway takeoffs with assistance of Naval Aviators from NAS Pensacola in 1942. They used a runway south of the primary runway of Hurlburt Field, now named Doolittle Runway. Duke Field and Wagner Field were used for this training as well.
A cruise missile launch site, located due south of Hurlburt Field on Santa Rosa Island and facing the Gulf of Mexico, began operation in 1944, in preparation for operations launching against Japan from captured bases in the Pacific Islands. This site is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
After World War II, Hurlburt fell into disuse until its reactivation in 1955. A Bomarc missile launched from Santa Rosa Isalnd successfully shot down a QB-47E drone on August 18, 1960, the first time a medium multi-jet bomber was shot down. An international crisis was almost occurred when a TGM-13 Mace launched from the site and designed to circle the Gulf of Mexico to be shot down by two Eglin F-4s broke from its intended path and flew south over the western edge of Cuba. The Mace flew 100 more miles to the south before crashing into the open ocean.
In 1961, the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron was activated by the Air Force Tactical Air Command at Hurlburt Field to commence operations against guerrilla fighters in both formal Air Force and covert exercises. The unit was led by Colonel Benjamin King and nicknamed "Jungle Jim." They flew missions in Central America, southeast Asia, and Africa, as well as other locations worldwide.
A few years later, Hurlburt Field became a dispersal site of B-47s for the 306th Bomb Wing at Macdill Air Force Base under the Strategic Air Command. While most of Hurlburt's facilities lay west of its runway until the 1980s, the expansion of special operations functionality in both size and importance necessitated the building of more ramps and hangars northeast of the Doolittle and main runway intersection. The Special Operations Command of the US Air Force continues to execute sensitive operations around the world from Hurlburt Field.
Today, Hurlburt Field also houses the US Air Force Special Operations School which trains Air Force, Navy, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and civilian personnel of the US government in a wide array of topics. Some of the most popular courses at the school include Middle East Orientation and Dynamics of International Terrorism. Hurlburt is also home to the Joint Special Operations University, whose lecturers come from every branch of the US military, the Central Intelligence Agency, the US Department of State, nongovernmental organizations, and civilian universities. The JSOU adheres to a non-attribution policy for comments made by students, staff, and faculty, an idea spearheaded by Major Warren Speller of the USAF.
Information provided by Eglin Air Force Base. You can contact them at:
Eglin AFB, FL 32542-5000