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Rocket attack kills Illinois man at Bagram air base in Afghanistan

Albert Henry Haas, 64, loved his job as a civilian aircraft mechanic at Bagram Air Base, near the Afghanistan capital of Kabul.

Shortly after midnight on Nov. 29, a large rocket exploded in the barracks building where Haas was sleeping, killing him and a female civilian worker, said Haas' younger brother, Kenneth Haas.

Both Haas and the deceased female civilian worked for AAR Airlift Group, of Palm Bay, Fla., which has a contract with the U.S. Transportation Command, based at Scott Air Force Base, to provide air transportation services to the U.S. Department of Defense, according to Chris Mason, a spokesman for AAR Corp.

"AAR Airlift has a fleet of planes and helicopters that are used to transport equipment, supplies and mail," Mason said.

Haas, an Army veteran of Vietnam, volunteered for duty at Bagram, where he worked on both helicopters and fixed-wing airplanes after decades as a aircraft mechanic in the United States.

"It was one last hoorah," said Kenneth Haas.

"He said the work was great. The food was great. The vacation time was great," Kenneth Haas said. "He was going on and on. And he said, 'They pay us for this.'"

Although Bagram is a frequent target of Taliban rocket and mortar attacks -- including one that killed four Americans in June -- Albert Haas did not believe he was in danger, according to Kenneth Haas.

"Al used to talk about it. He goes, 'But the rockets are from the old Russian era,'" Kenneth Haas said. "'So the motors are still good, but the warheads are usually duds.'"

Mason declined to identify the female employee who died in the rocket attack. Mason also declined to say if any new safety procedures have been put in place to protect AAR employees since the rocket attack.

AAR Corp., the parent company of AAR Airlift, is in business to move "troops and equipment into theaters of operations, sustain in-theater activity and provide real-time communications and situational awareness," according to the company website.

AAR Corp., headquartered in Wood Dale, a Chicago suburb, employs more than 6,000 people across the globe at 60 venues in 13 countries, according to its website.

AAR Airlift flew Haas' family to Dover Air Force Base, in Delaware, to meet the casket that brought the Belleville man home, according to Kenneth Haas.

Albert Haas is survived by Bay Thi, his wife of 41 years; a son Thao Hass, of Texas; and daughters Tina Smith, of Shiloh, and Lisa Carnahan, of St. Louis.

Albert Haas worked for many years for Ozark and TWA airlines, and then commuted for several years to Kansas City to work for American Airlines.

His decades of work in the airline industry provided him with free airline tickets, which he used often on trips with his family, said his daughter Lisa Carnahan.

"He was not your conventional guy," Carnahan said. "He raised us to truly appreciate what the world had to offer."

When Carnahan was 12, her father took her and the family on a trip to London, in addition to extensive travels across America.

"We saw every national forest, and every museum in D.C. and up and down the coast of California," she said. "We were in Taiwan and Hong Kong."

Her last trip she took with her father in 2012 to the nation of Burma, which was in the process of shedding its military regime.

"We were there for the first truly free elections, where (opposition leader) Aung San Suu Kyi" was elected to the Burmese parliament, Carnahan said.

Albert Haas was also a great believer in women's rights, and raised both his daughters to see themselves as capable as any man, she said.

"He was very adamant that we could do anything the boys could do," Carnahan said. "We helped him roof his house. We helped him rewire the entire house ... I can change my own tire on the side of the highway because of him."

In recognition of Albert Haas' support for women's rights, the Haas family has asked that memorials be sent to the Afghan Learning Institute, which has promoted educational and training opportunities for Afghan women and girls more than two decades.

A visitation is set for 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday at George Renner and Sons Funeral Home, 120 N. Illinois St., Belleville.

The funeral for Haas, a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Army and Army Reserve, is planned for Friday at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, in South St. Louis County.

So far the U.S. military has not released information about the attack that killed his brother, Kenneth Haas said.

"That's what we're all wondering, 'Why?" he said. "When contractors are killed over there, it hits the news right away."

U.S. Department of Defense representatives could not be reached for comment.
 

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