I have spent countless hours circling Pope Field, on training runs. I am perpetually enamored by aviation and the military aircrafts of C-130, C-17’s, CASA 212 and UH-60 Black Hawks that fly directly overhead.

I had the unique opportunity on Jan. 31 during a civic leaders tour to receive an insider’s perspective of the Pope Field flight line and air traffic control room. I also witnessed Air Force operations and the air medical evacuation team’s training simulator and capability demonstration, as well as visited the Heavy Drop Rigging Facility on Fort Bragg.

Pope Field, named after early military aviator 1st Lt. Harley Halbert Pope, is home to the United States Air Force Mobility Command 43rd Airlift Wing, 23rd Fighter Wing and 18th Air Support Operations Group. The field has played a leading role in the development of U.S. tactics and air-power. Missions at Pope Field range from airlift and close air support to the American armed forces, to humanitarian missions flown all over the world. Pope Field provides air transportation particularly for the U.S. Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps and 82nd Airborne Division, based on Fort Bragg.

Flight is transient in its objective. Yet the feeling is freeing, and even if just for a moment in time, it allows you to rise above and go beyond what you thought you were capable of or knew was possible. Flying takes you up and over and away on a journey, filling you with excitement, exhilaration and fear. There is excitement for the prospect and possibilities of education and new places. And there is a desire to seek the unknown, to go past our comfort zones and face fear in the eye. Similar to the feeling I get when I am running around the undulating, secure and grand parameter of the field in the wee hours of the morning or at dusk when the sun is finally setting, I feel free. Flying, much like running, is a metaphor for life and its journey. You build a confidence and faith through it, and the ability to cope with situations that test you. You never stop learning, you never stop growing, you never stop chasing that feeling of freedom.

This tour demonstrated how the Air Force supports the Global Readiness Force (GRF) and the 82nd Airborne Division, reaffirming my admiration for aviation and my continued marvel in flight.