919th dedicates new memorial

  • Published
  • By U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Dylan Gentile
  • 919th Special Operations Wing

Citizen Air Commandos came together 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 many people are not aware was ever performed here.  

 “It was a privilege to honor the 3205th Drone Group and our wing’s legacy,” said Tech. Sgt. James Patterson.

The 3205th flew a variety of surplus aircraft for the Air Force that were converted into drones and used as radio-controlled aerial targets in the 1950s for test purposes. The ceremony also served as the official unveiling of a new memorial built by the 919th Special Operations Civil Engineering Squadron as a tribute to Airmen who have defended the nation while assigned to Duke Field.  

Officials included three plaques on the memorial, two of which are dedicated to members from the 3205th Drone Group who died in a training accident in 1951. The full story of the fallen members can be found here.  “Drones have been with us since the beginning of aviation, but this ceremony isn’t about airplanes, it’s about Airmen,” said Lt. Col. Mark Jones, 2nd Special Operations Squadron commander and the keynote speaker for the ceremony. The unit Jones commands today performs 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 conduct duties that one day could require the same,” said Jones.

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 at its activation in 1971.

“We’re remembering all those who have served and are currently serving on the 50th anniversary of the 919th SOW,” said Jones. “Today I’m reminded of a quote that says: ‘Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.’”

The 919th SOCES broke ground on the memorial July 9th, 2020, and finished construction on August 8, 2021. The new location and construction provides higher visibility than the old concrete slab adjacent to the dining facility which hosted the original plaque.

Challenges surrounding COVID-19 delayed the 50th anniversary celebration, events and subsequent memorial dedication. However, the wing achieved 50 years of operations on July 31st, 2021.

“This memorial is dedicated to the memory of the fallen aircrew from the 3205th Done Group as well as the sacrifices of the men and women of the 919 SOW,” said Col. Michael Lowe, 919th SOW commander. “After all these years, we continue to provide exemplary support defending our nation’s interests in a manner that would make all Airmen who’ve ever been assigned to Duke Field proud.”

Check out the 919th SOW on Facebook and Instagram to see more from the 50th anniversary weekend honoring the legacy of our Airmen.