HistoryFrom the Stars and Stripes archives
Airmen and soldier crews busy all night preparing for the Nightingales' arrival
Stars and Stripes January 22, 1981
RHEIN-MAIN AB, Germany — Dozens of airmen and soldiers worked energetically here through the night Tuesday and early Wednesday morning, taking care of jobs that on most days would be routine.
The difference was that they were preparing for the arrival of America's 52 hostages from Iran.
Security police and military police ringed the control tower area near the stopping point for the C-9 Nightingale lanes which were to bring the hostages home. Airmen moved equipment out of the terminal area and a snow-removal crew cleared the ice surrounding the tarmac where the hostages were to be transferred to a bus for the trip to the U.S. Air Force hospital at Wiesbaden.
"I've been praying a lot today," said Airman 1.C. Dennis Guerrero, a security policeman with the 435th Security Police at Rhein-Main AB.
"It feels good to see those birds flying out of here," said Guerrero, who stood watch on the flight line in the near-freezing temperature.
"I don't want to be anyplace but here — this is history," said S.Sgt. Don Ruminer, another security policeman at the arrival area where the former hostages were to be brought.
Ruminer, sipping from a cup of soup after a stint of duty in the 34-degree, cold outside the base flight tower, said "this is an exhilarating experience; I'm happy for them."
An airman who was to clean out the C-9 craft after their return to Rhein-Main from Algiers, said he was thrilled that the 52 were finally free. "I think it's great they're free," said Airman 1.C. William F. Farrar Jr., a flight services worker at Rhein-Main. He said, "After listening to President Reagan's speech today and then coming home it makes me proud to be an American and to be in the service."
S.Sgt. Paul Hallenbeck was proud to be one of 10 security police from Spangdahlem AB chosen to come to Rhein-Main AB to help with crowd control. "I feel good to be here; everybody in the unit at Spang wanted to come up here on this thing."
Another security policeman, Airman 1.C. Barry Sharpe, stationed at Sembach, clapped his hands Tuesday and rubbed his fingers in the freezing night air and said, "I'm not cold at all. I'm lucky to be here on this night." Sharpe, from Dallas, Texas, said Tuesday night's shift was one eight-hour stint be didn't mind, even after working a midnight shift the day before.
In mid-afternoon Tuesday more than a dozen Air Force members erected another hand-built tribute to the hostages atop the control-tower building. The 8-by-20-foot plywood-framed billboard proclaimed in foot-high letters "Welcome Back to Freedom."
"It's our way of saying welcome back," said Airman 1.C. Gregg Echard of Charleston, W.Va. "It's the best thing we could do without meeting them, which we won't get to do."
The signboard was constructed by members of the 435 Field Maint Sq. "We put it together this morning in the C-130 enginerepair shop," said Echard. A' member of the unit, Sgt. Josie Ziemet, organized the work, he said.
Besides Echard and Ziemet, those who contributed their time were Air Force members Kevin Post, Mike Howe, Tim Dold, Pat Matthews, Ken Dowling, Ken Matthews, Belinda Sawyers, Joe Halstrom, Holly Britton, Leon Smith, John McNabb, Dell Hamilton, Lou Cox, Paul McCombs and Joe Dewalt.
Eleven member crews were named for each of the C-9 Flying Nightingale craft that were dispatched to Algiers Tuesday night to pick up the former hostages. "I wanta tell you there was nothing that could have stopped those birds from going (to Algiers) tonight," said M.Sgt. Berton Morey, a technical specialist who advised on maintenance of the C-9s that flew to Algiers.
The man who supervised the maintenance of the two C-9s was excited as the two planes thundered into the overcast sky at two Rein-Main only a minute apart Tuesday night. "If they d have been any closer together, one would have gotten jet blast," said Senior M.Sgt. Jared Williams. "Those planes, all of our planes, are checked daily; there was nothing that could keep them from flying tonight."
Mission commander of one C-9 flight was Maj. Michael Connor from San Antonio, Texas. Aircraft commander on that flight was Maj. Kenneth Molts of Agawam, Mass. while Capt. Gregory Northcutt of Hannibal, Mo. was the co-pilot.
Other crew members on the flight, which bore tail number 10880, were flight Mechanic S.Sgt. Michael R. Brown of Marina, Calif., nurse (Capt.) Thomas Gormley from Deal;, Md., medical crew director nurse (Capt.) Angela Hardy, technicians M.Sgt. Charles Rigo, Laurel, Md., S.Sgt. Bobbie Amsden, Seattle, Wash. and S.Sgt. Larry Freeland from Durham, N.C.
Steward on the flight was S.Sgt. Mariadagraca Lourenco from Dover, N.J. Also onboard was airborne support member Capt. Carmelo Scalzi, of St. Clair Shores, Mich.
On the second craft, Capt. William Stokes, Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla, was aircraft commander. Maj. Danny Piper of Venice, Fla. and Capt. Christopher Fillar of Pittsburgh, Pa., were co-pilots.
Sgt. Jimmy McVicker of North Spring, Nev. was flight mechanic; Nurse (Capt.) Gretchen Malaski of San Antonio, Texas was medical crew director and nurse (Caps.) Deborah Kelly of Clarksdale, Miss. was flight nurse.
The three technicians wore T.Sgt. Gerald Duffman of Gradvie, Mo., T.Sgt. Richard Bankey of Hutchison, Kan. and Sgt. Michael J. Beauclair of Boise, Idaho. Steward on the flight was T.Sgt. James L. Prestegard from Spirit Lake, Iowa and airborne support member was Capt. Steven Coffey of Iowa City, Iowa.