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Air Commando One remembered

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. — More than 500 friends, family members and servicemembers gathered at here to honor and remember “Air Commando One” during a memorial ceremony July 2.

Airmen of all ranks, including Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz and Medal of Honor recipient retired Col. George “Bud” Day attended the ceremony honoring retired Brig. Gen. Harry “Heinie” Aderholt, who died May 20, at the age of 91.

“The quantity of people we have gathered here is indicative of the very high regard in which we all hold General Aderholt,” Schwartz said. “It is a truly a high honor to be among the ‘quiet professionals’ and speak in remembrance of ‘Air Commando One,’ a role model of leadership, a mentor of combat airmanship, a beacon of the timeless value of service to the United States, and a mentor and friend.”

During his 31 years of Air Force service, Aderholt helped nurture and mature Air Force special operations into what it is today. His career took him to Asia, North Africa, Europe, and islands throughout the Pacific.

“I have known General Aderholt for almost a half century because he spent a significant part of his life helping us fight, side by side. Over the years, our camaraderie turned into a great friendship,” said Kue Chaw, who spoke representing the Hmong coalition. “The new generation will miss General Aderholt, but we should celebrate his life together.”

The Hmong were warriors in north Laos who fought against the North Vietnamese for more than 15 years. Aderholt supported them as commander of the 56th Air Commando Wing in Thailand, flying propeller driven aircraft to conduct low-level night interdiction, as well as civic action missions.

“With his passing, our nation has lost a storied member of the greatest nation, a visionary leader of combat air power, and a founding father of modern special operations,” Schwartz said. “In the time we have today, it would be impossible to cover even the best of his wartime stories, his finest qualities, or his most notable accomplishments.”

“He was willing to put his career and his life on the line for the sake of the mission and his people,” the general continued. “Heinie was relentlessly devoted to his people, exercised marvelous judgment and was creative, industrious and sometimes unorthodox with his solutions to a formidable problem. This was exemplified by his approach to combat leadership. As many here can attest, Heinie’s people would do anything for him, and I am proud to count myself among them.”

Even after his service, Aderholt was recognized for his distinct service and leadership. In 2001, he was inducted into the AFSOC Order of the Sword, becoming the third person to be inducted into the Order, wherein noncommissioned officers recognize individuals they hold in high esteem and wish to honor.

“He was in a league of his own, maintaining razor sharp focus on mission success while making the welfare of his men a top priority,” Schwartz said before performing a final salute in honor of the father of Air Force special operations.

The ceremony concluded with a flag folding ceremony and a three-volley salute, performed by the Hurlburt Honor Guard.