EDITOR’S NOTE: Log Reporter Matt Algarin is a member of this year’s Destin Forward class. He will be filing stories monthly chronicling his experiences in the Chamber of Commerce’s leadership program.


Behind the gates of Hurlburt Field lies an entire world that cannot be appreciated or experienced by the average passerby.

There are thousands of brave young men and women who leave the security of base to travel abroad and protect our freedoms. Airman, soldiers, sons, daughters, husbands and wives have called Hurlburt Field home since 1942 where the base had humble beginnings as a small training field for the much larger Eglin Field.

For our final Destin Forward Class, my classmates and I were treated to a behind the scenes look at the base. And for those of you that haven’t had the luxury, let me tell you, you are missing out.

Hurlburt is home to the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), the 1st Special Operations Wing (1 SOW), the USAF Special Operations School (USAFSOS) and the Air Combat Command's (ACC) 505th Command and Control Wing.

You don’t realize the enormity of the base from Hwy. 98. But all told, Hurlburt Field is nearly 6,700-acres in size.

The base's winding roads lead back to the main airfield which is where we began our tour, after being briefed by an AC-130U pilot. Did you know that AC-130’s date back to Vietnam?

The massive planes total only 17 in numbers, weigh 155,000 pounds, and can fly for 6.5 hours without refueling. With a crew of 13 men, the AC-130U offers “close air support” to ground troops, air interdiction, recon, and infiltration missions.

If you have never been inside an AC-130U, I promise there is no way you would confuse its strict confines with a room at a luxury hotel.

Flying mostly at night, there is definitely no overabundance of light on the AC-130U, not to mention room to move. It’s hard to imagine how the crew does the incredible things they do given the tight spaces and dark conditions. I’m only 6’1” and I had to duck quite a bit.

Did I mention that the AC-130U has guns that were used on Naval ships? Between the 25mm Gatlin Gun, the 40mm gun that fires 100 rounds-per-minute and the 100mm gun, there is plenty of firepower. Standing in the gunner's "work" area, it's hard to imagine the stress involved with slinging 40-pound-plus shells into a gun as fast as you can.

One of our tour guides, who happened to be a pilot on the massive plane, told us that gunners on the plane are “very good at being able to put rounds close to people," which can save lives when our troops are stuck in close quarters with an advancing enemy.

Each airman and soldier we spoke to Thursday was different — some were from Indiana, others from Washington or Pennsylvania — but they all had one common bond. There was a sense of pride and patriotism that couldn't be suppressed.

These men and women love what they do. And for that, I am ever grateful.

Without the service of these brave individuals, and those that have come before them, I may not be sitting here typing these words. I may not be free to express my thoughts or work in a job I love.

So, lets all take a minute to salute our Military.

Thank you.