Special Tactics combat controller remembered with building dedication

  • Published
  • By Lt. Alejandra Fontalvo
  • 24th Special Operations Wing

As memorial day weekend approaches, members of the military community take time to reflect on the sacrifice of their fellow service members killed in action. The Special Tactics community specifically kicked off the weekend of remembrance with a special tribute for one of those brave warriors.

The 24th Special Operations Wing hosted a building dedication ceremony May 27, 2021 at Hurlburt Field, Florida honoring the legacy of Senior Airman Mark Forester, a Special Tactics Airman killed in action while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in September of 2010.  

“Today I get the privilege of dedicating the Forester Strength and Conditioning Facility here at the Special Tactics Training Squadron and I can’t imagine being anywhere else,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Allison Black, vice commander of the 24th SOW who presided over the ceremony. “Isaiah 6:8 says: ‘I’ve heard the voice of the lord saying whom shall I send and who will go for us and I said, here I am. Send me.’ Mark Forester did just that. At a young age Mark raised his hand to serve his god and was later called to action by his faith to serve his country.”

Forester, a native of Haleyville, Alabama graduated from high school in 1999. After serving for two years as a missionary and finishing his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Alabama, Forester was called to service.

“The events of September 11th, called Mark’s heart to serve his country and do his part to defeat terrorism,” said Black. “He ensured his path would put him in the thick of things. In 2007, Mark enlisted for the opportunity to serve as an elite combat controller. Regardless of rank, Mark was a leader and he led through his actions.”

After completing the rigorous two-year Special Tactics pipeline, Forester was assigned to the 21st Special Tactics Squadron at Pope Field, North Carolina when he deployed for the first time to Afghanistan. As a combat controller, Forester conducted several close-air support and direct action missions alongside his joint teammates. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Valor for heroism in ground combat against the enemy in August of 2010. Approximately a month later he would find himself in another intense battle and was killed in an attempt to retrieve one of his U.S. Army Special Forces teammates for which he would be posthumously awarded the Silver Star Medal in June of 2012.  

The Forester family along with friends and teammates reflected on his courageous actions and legacy as the newly renamed Forester Strength and Conditioning Facility was unveiled.

“We feel very blessed as a family that Mark’s legacy still lives on and he’s going to be able to inspire students from now on,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Joseph Forester, Mark’s older brother and fellow Airman. “When Mark was killed and we came here to the school house, they brought us in [the gym] and showed us this mural that another student had painted. The exercise physiologist at the time told me why it hung in the gym. He said that during down time when Mark was here as a student, on weekends and evenings… when everyone else was leaving base, Mark would be in here working out. Knowing that this is where Mark loved to be… in the gym, making gains, getting stronger, it’s appropriate that this is named after him. We’re grateful to the Special Tactics community.”

Special Tactics leaders, students and guests of the ceremony closed out occasion with memorial pushups and transitioned inside the facility.  The Forester family looked to the walls of the gym lined with motivational quotes and the mostly black and white mural of Forester in full deployment kit with his signature red University of Alabama hat.

“The Special Tactics Training Squadron develops the next generation of America’s special operations warriors,” said Black. “The men and women here are building character and preparing to take their place on the battlefield for Air Force Special Operations Command. As these future warriors come to train and master their craft, they will now be able to do so in an appropriately dedicated building…Mark’s legacy of setting the example, his intense drive, strength and determination will forever be remembered by each and man and woman that walk through those doors. Roll tide, Mark Forester, roll tide.”