Hurlburt honors nine airmen who died in 2002 plane crashes
Northwest Florida Daily News
HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. — Today’s elite Special Operations force was built through the sacrifice of men and women who risked their lives a decade ago after 9/11.
Nine Hurlburt Field airmen who died in two aircraft crashes in 2002 were among those who helped craft the new Special Forces, Col. Jim Slife, commander of the 1st Special Operations Wing, said at a Friday memorial service in their honor.
“As we look back on the accomplishments of the last 10 years we, like Galileo, have to say, ‘If I have seen farther than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants,’ ” Slife said. “We are honoring the giants upon whose shoulders we stand today.”
About 1,500 family members, friends and comrades gathered Friday to honor two airmen who died aboard Chariot 55 when it went down near Gardez, Afghanistan, on June 2, 2002, and seven Hurlburt airmen on Talon 13, which crashed in Puerto Rico the following Aug. 7.
“We all owe a debt of gratitude to those who lost their lives so that we may live free,” said Lt. Col. Richard A. Carrell, commander of the 15th Special Operations Squadron.
“Today, as in previous years, we stand here together as a family, recommitting ourselves to the very same values they upheld.”
Tech Sgt. Sean M. Corlew and Staff Sgt. Anissa A. Shero died when Chariot 55 crashed during a nighttime mission to evacuate three Special Forces soldiers and their vehicles from a landing strip in Afghanistan. Sgt. 1st Class Peter Tycz from Fort Bragg, N.C., was also killed.
Maj. Gregory W. Fritz, Maj. Michael J. Akos, Capt. Cristel A. Chavez, Lt. Nathanial D. Buckley, Tech Sgt. Steve Johnson, Staff Sgt. Robert J. McGuire Jr. and Staff Sgt. Shane H. Kimmett died when Talon 13 crashed during a training mission in Puerto Rico.
Tech Sgt. Martin A. Tracy and Tech Sgt. Christopher Matero with the Kentucky Air National Guard and Capt. Panuk Soom-Sa-Was-Di, a Special Operations Command liaison officer, also were killed.
Shero, a loadmaster, and Chavez, a co-pilot, were the first two air commando women to die during flight operations.
Slife said the deaths came when Special Operations was transforming itself from a force that occasionally made headlines through sensational deeds to one that does remarkable things every day.
“Things are that busy now, that every crew has to be the A Team every night,” he said.
The memorial service included the presentation of a wreath to the 20 or so family members on hand and concluded with the playing of taps.
An MC-130H Combat Talon II, the same type of aircraft as Chariot 55 and Talon13, passed overhead.
The seven airmen and thousands like them will be remembered for “their character, honor, and dedication to duty,” said Carrell.
“They stand witness to our profession of arms … to our warrior spirit, to our camaraderie, to our dedication to freedom and to our undying faith and commitment to each other … to America,” he said.