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Air Force unit inactivates at Pope Army Airfield

Members of the 36th and 43rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadrons walk on the flight line at Pope Field, N.C., on July 12, 2013. The 36 AES is an Air Force Reserve squadron that is collocated with the Active Duty 43 AES at Pope Field, N.C. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Peter R. Miller)

The flag for the 43rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron was rolled and cased Monday as Col. Bonnie Stephenson relinquished command of the squadron, which also inactivated.

The squadron will be redesignated at the 60th Air Medical Evacuation Squadron and move to Travis Air Force Base in California.

Stephenson, who has been the squadron’s commander for the past two years, will take command of the 380th Expeditionary Medical Group.

Brig. Gen. Robert Marks, command surgeon of the Air Mobility Command and chief of Air Force Nurse Corps, presided over Monday’s inactivation ceremony.

Marks, a past 43rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron commander, reflected on the unit’s history.

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That history dates to the first aeromedical evacuation group at Donaldson Air Force Base in South Carolina. After several redesignations throughout the years, the 43rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron activated in 1997.

Marks said the squadron has been involved in the Global War on Terror and has supported civil authorities to evacuate patients during natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and earthquakes.

“While the story of the 43rd AES at Pope draws to a close, the tradition and mission will go on,” he said. “It’s just moving to another location. I challenge each of you, current and future members, to uphold the traditions of this unit, to continue the tradition of honor and to do whatever it takes to make the mission happen while supporting members of the team.”

Stephenson said during her past two years as its commander, the unit has responded to deploy personnel and equipment during natural disasters for Hurricanes Florence, Michael and Dorian.

Most recently, it helped move COVID-19 patients with a transportation isolation system.

“Our motto is ‘always the first,'” Stephenson told the airmen of the unit. “I have to say, you truly lived up to that, even while inactivating a unit and standing up a new one.”

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© 2020 The Fayetteville Observer