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Happy ‘Brrrtttday’: Older than wild blue yonder

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --

Even as a new Airman, I instantly knew that Moody was special.

Where else can I wake up to the “bbbrrrttttt” sound of the A-10C Thunderbolt II, travel down the “Bemiss 500,” and only endure winter over a weekend because summer starts in March?

Moody, that’s where.

As a photojournalist, I have the privilege of seeing the base from a new perspective every day. Unfortunately for me, it wasn’t until I started researching for Moody’s upcoming 75th birthday that I learned about its legacy.

Not many people know that Moody’s namesake came from the people of Valdosta.

“Maj. [George Putnam] Moody was not from Valdosta and in fact he had never even been to Valdosta,” said Kenneth Sloat, 23d Wing historian. “He was nominated as one of the potential memorial names for the air field and somehow the information was leaked to Valdosta. In typical southern fashion, they picked his name up and made him their hometown hero.”

At the time, the committee had no idea the base would evolve the way it did but what they did know was their air field should be named after a brave pilot, who died while flight-testing in Wichita, Kan.

Before a name could be finalized, the Valdosta community began painting the shuttle buses and took Maj. Moody’s name and ran with it, leaving the Air Corps no choice but to name the base Moody Field.

On June 26, 1941, Moody Field opened its gates and six months later the base completed its first military flight, a day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

“Although the mission has changed over the years, there are two universals that were here when we started and are here today,” said Sloat. “We’ve always had a spectacular relationship with Valdosta community and we’ve always trained Airmen to go to war.”

Before World War II kicked off, the local community understood the possibility of America going to war and immediately knew that they needed to be a part of the war efforts.

From the beginning of World War II to more recent conflicts such as Operation INHERENT RESOLVE, Moody has left its footprint as one of America’s elite bases known for its mentality of killing the bad guys and saving the good guys.

As the mission evolved to meet the needs of the Air Force, Moody was home to the celebrated 3550th Flying Training Wing for more than 21 years, the 347th Tactical Flying Wing for over 31 years and finally the 347th Rescue Wing.

People stationed here today probably associate Moody with the Flying Tigers led by Maj. Gen. Claire Lee Chennault but the 23d Wing has only been here a decade.

Today, we have Moody Airmen deployed in every corner of the world. This adds to our long heritage of bringing the fight to the bad guys everyday, but that doesn’t happen without Moody’s elite Airmen.

Among Moody’s finest is George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States, who was a pilot trainee here in 1969 and U.S. Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, Air Force Chief of Staff, who served here as an operations commander.

Moody’s also home to brave Airmen who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Among those heroes are Senior Airman Jason Cunningham, who was killed after saving 10 people during the battle of Robert’s Ridge and Airman 1st Class LeeBernard Chavis, who was killed while performing duties as a turret gunner in Iraq.

As Moody gears up to celebrate its 75th birthday, I often asked myself how a small base in Georgia raised a president, an Air Force Chief of Staff, countless generals, and have thousands of Airmen who take the fight to the enemy every day?

The answer is simple, in the words of Moody’s ever so lovely, Dr. Lucy Greene, wife of Parker Greene, Moody Support Committee chairman, “The Air Force has always sent its best to Moody AFB.”

After two years at Moody, I can honestly say Dr. Lucy’s words ring true. There’s no better place to start my career but Moody – a small base with rich heritage, incredible community support and the finest Airmen in the world’s greatest Air Force.

Happy 75th Birthday Moody! HUA!