186th Names Street after Brig. Gen. Sam Forbert Jr.

  • Published
  • By Maj. Dusty Culpepper
  • 186 Air Refueling Wing

When a person drives on to Key Field Air National Guard Base, he or she very quickly sees road signs commemorating many of the pioneers of the base’s rich aviation history,  Fred Key Drive,  Al Key Drive, A.D. Hunter Avenue, and James Keeton Avenue.

Now, the first sign they will see, is Sam Forbert Drive, named after Brig. Gen. (retired) Sam Forbert, Jr. 

Friends, family, and fellow service members gathered on a humid morning, June 29, 2023, at Key Field Air National Guard Base, to dedicate the street and to witness the unveiling of the sign in memory of the late Forbert.  

From a young boy in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Forbert would dream about flying planes, and even took flying lessons as a teenager at the Hattiesburg Airport. 

 After high school, he wanted to join the Army Air Corps to fly, but he had to have two years of college to get into the Aviation Cadet Program.  So, he attended Mississippi State College (later became Mississippi State University) for those two years before entering the Army Aviation Cadet Program at Maxwell Field in Montgomery, Alabama.

Forbert’s illustrious military career began in the thick of World War II.  He commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943, and during World War II, he served as an instructor, training replacement pilots heading to the Pacific.  After the war, he transferred to the reserves, and began a civilian job as a salesman.  

In 1947, Forbert transferred to the 153rd Fighter Squadron to fly the P-47 aircraft. He was recalled to active duty during the Korean War and conducted over 40 combat missions during that conflict.  

In 1952, Forbert became the Operations Officer for the 153rd Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, a position he held for 19 years.  In January 1970, he was promoted to wing commander of the 153rd until 1978, when he retired after 36 years of service.   

“Gen. Forbert truly loved flying in the Mississippi Air National and embodied the meaning of service to our nation,” Col. Joe Reid, vice-commander of the 186th Air Refueling Wing said.  

“He was a pioneer and an advocate for the Mississippi Air National Guard to help make Key Field a valued asset to our nation’s defense.”

During his military service, he recorded 5,189 flight hours in 62 different aircraft.  

Forbert continued to be a community leader and a proponent for the military in Meridian for many years after his official service ended.  He died in December 2022 at the age of 99.