A sculpture depicting the Greek god of war, Ares, riding a pegasus centaur was unveiled Tuesday. The life-size bronze figures sit atop a massive granite block just outside ARSOAC.
Ares, mid scowl, has his sword raised as he appears ready to leap into battle. The pegasus centaur has its bow drawn and aimed at some unseen enemy.
Brig. Gen. John R. Evans Jr., the commanding general of ARSOAC, said the statue was a tribute to the unit and its soldiers.
"It stands as a personification of man and machine, of skill and courage and of duty and sacrifice," he said.
Before unveiling the statue, Evans said the command could have gone a more typical route but instead chose something unique.
"It's gratifying to know I will not be met with a museum relic helicopter like those that are all too common in our military air parks. I will not be met by a cold piece of granite with the words of some long dead poet upon them," he said. "I will instead be met with a reminder that the men and women of the ARSOAC have enjoyed the privilege to fly the best."
Known as the Volare Optimos statue -- for the Latin phrase, "To fly the best," which is also the motto of the unit -- the statue was created by artist Jim Shore and donated to the command. Shore said he was humbled to be able to contribute the work of art.
The statue was cast in bronze, save for the tip of the drawn arrow, which was forged from steel taken from the wreckage of a UH-60 Black Hawk that crashed during the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993.
The statue has other references to the special operations community, including a claymore dagger worn by the centaur and a gungnir on its breastplate armor.
Shore said officials wanted the statue to be special.
"We wanted it to be something that wasn't just a soldier standing there," he said.
Instead, he said, the statue was meant to embody the coordination between air and ground combat power.
Evans said the centaur represents the special operations aviation while Ares represents the special operations ground forces they support.
Aviation exists to support ground forces, he said. And the statue was a "masterpiece that will from this day tell the story of collaboration, coordination and collegiality" of air-ground integration.
It's only fitting that the statue be placed at Fort Bragg, Evans said. The installation has, for decades, served as the flagship for developing special operations tactics, techniques and procedures, as well as the location where Army special operations forces pioneered the integration of aviation.