DUKE FIELD, Fla. —
Citizen Air Commandos gathered for a memorial dedication earlier this month to honor the 919th Special Operations Wing’s legacy of service and the sacrifices of a group of service members who supported a mission whose many people are unaware that it was ever performed here.
“It has been a privilege to honor the 3205th Drone Group and the legacy of our wing,” said Tech. sergeant. James Patterson.
The 3205th flew a variety of Air Force surplus aircraft that were converted to drones and used as radio-controlled aerial targets in the 1950s for testing purposes. The ceremony also served as the official unveiling of a new memorial built by the 919th Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron to honor the Airmen who defended the nation while assigned to Duke Field.
Officials have included three plaques on the memorial, two of which are dedicated to members of the 3205th Drone Group who died in a training accident in 1951. The full history of the deceased members can be found here. “Drones have been with us since the beginning of aviation, but this ceremony is not about airplanes, it’s about airmen,” said Lt. Col. Mark Jones, commander of the 2nd Special Operations Squadron and keynote speaker at the ceremony. The unit Jones commanded today is flying a remotely piloted aircraft mission for the Air Force Reserve.
“I hope the ideals these men demonstrated in their sacrifice will comfort and guide us as we carry out tasks that may one day demand the same,” Jones said.
One of the other two plaques describes the events of that day in 1951, while the other provides a brief history of the 919th SOW dating back to the 919th Tactical Airlift Group when it was activated in 1971.
“We remember all who have served and are currently serving on the 50th anniversary of the 919th SOW,” Jones said. “Today I remember a quote that says, ‘The greatest love has no one but this, that one lays down his life for his friends.'”
The 919th SOCES dedicated the memorial on July 9, 2020 and completed construction on August 8, 2021. The new location and construction provide better visibility than the old concrete slab adjacent to the dining hall that housed the plaque. ‘origin.
Challenges surrounding COVID-19 have delayed the 50th anniversary celebration, events, and subsequent dedication of the memorial. However, the wing reached 50 years of operations on July 31, 2021.
“This memorial is dedicated to the memory of the fallen aircrew of the 3205th Done Group as well as the sacrifices of the men and women of the 919 SOW,” said Col. Michael Lowe, commander of the 919th SOW. “After all these years, we continue to provide exemplary support in representing our nation’s interests in a way that would make all Airmen who have ever served at Duke Field proud.”
Check out the 919th SOW on Facebook and Instagram for more on the 50th Anniversary weekend honoring the legacy of our Airmen.