By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer
Kentucky National Guard members hunkered down in a hangar at Davis Field this past week awaiting air transport back home after completing a five-day search and rescue training mission.
The 203 soldiers and airmen who serve with the Kentucky Army and Air National Guard arrived Sunday by military transport planes at Davis Field before deploying to Camp Gruber. They returned to Muskogee’s Davis Field on Thursday awaiting the arrival of three C-130 transport planes.
The scene hearkened back to the airport’s early days, when Davis Field served as a ground-air support base to Camp Gruber. The airport, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society, also served as a training site for aerial photographic reconnaissance during World War II.
Davis Field Airport Manager Garry Lynn said the history of the city-owned facility, where a new terminal is being built and taxiway improvements are under way, is rooted as a military installation. The airport was named in recognition of Muskogee native Jack Davis, a World War II veteran who was killed in action while serving in the South Pacific.
According to the Oklahoma Encyclopedia of History and Culture, the federal government’s lease of Davis Field for wartime use expired in 1947. It was leased a second time by the federal government in 1956 and served until 1967 as an Air Force Reserve base.
Lynn said while it has served primarily as a civilian airfield since 1967, Davis Field still has a significant military presence and is designated as a forward operating base for Federal Emergency Management Agency operations and a gateway for the U.S. Veterans Affairs. This summer, Lynn said, a military unit will train at Davis Field during a 12-day exercise.
“They will move in and set up a mobile control tower and mobile radar unit, everything to sustain airport operations,” Lynn said. “These guys move in everything they need to sustain airport operations at any given location in a combat zone.”
Lt. Col. Lance Grebe of the Kentucky National Guard’s Chemical Enhanced Response Force Package said Davis Field served as an ideal staging area for the joint unit that arrived Sunday. Grebe said deploying to Gruber by air made the exercise more true to reality.
“If this would have been a real disaster, we wouldn’t have been able to drive in here anyway,” Grebe said, noting the joint unit included three sections of the Kentucky CERFP. “This was good practice, it kept us from having to bring in all of our vehicles, and it obviously saved taxpayers a lot money.”
Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or firstname.lastname@example.org.