Going behind the gates at Hurlburt Field (PHOTOS)

Hurlburt airman

A staff sergeant awaits the beginning of the morning ceremony at Hurlburt Field to commemorate the 12th anniversary of the attacks of 9/11.

Jacob Fuller
Published: Friday, September 13, 2013 at 04:34 PM.

Though the military provides tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic development to the Emerald Coast, many people drive by the local bases daily and never see what happens behind the gates.

Wednesday, Sept. 11, this reporter got a tour of the some of the daily happenings at Hurlburt Field, home of the 1st Special Operations Wing.

After being escorted onto the base, the day began with a somber ceremony at the base fire station, commemorating the heroic acts of first responders on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Col. William P. West, Commander of the 1st Special Operations Wing, and Fire Chief Michael Blakely spoke to the servicemen and women about the sacrifices made on that day and every day since.

"On 9/11, it was the first responders who provided police and medical services. They were the first ones to fight the war on terror," West told the crowd.

Blakely tolled the bell for the first responders who have lost their lives, and said a few words to end the ceremony. Our tour guides: Airman Desiree Moye, Airman Michelle Vickers and Sergeant Sarah Hanson, then escorted us to a small auditorium, where Col. West was waiting to brief us on the history and duties of Hurlburt Field and the 1st SOW, one of three Air Force active duty special operations wings and the first servicemen to fire shots in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The fact Col. West seemed most proud of was that the 1st SOW is the most deployed unit in the Air Force.

"We're getting ready to go back into Afghanistan. We're on a set rotation basis; six months on, six months off," Col. West said.

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