Mideast edition, Saturday, June 30, 2007

RAF LAKENHEATH, England — The first 48th Fighter Wing airman killed while serving in Iraq was remembered Friday during a memorial ceremony inside Hangar 6.

Airman 1st Class Jason D. Nathan died after a roadside bomb struck his vehicle as he performed gunner duties in support of an Iraq Police Transition Team mission on June 23.

The 48th Security Forces Squadron airman was posthumously promoted to senior airman in the ceremony.

Hundreds of mourners shared the aircraft hangar with a parked F-15 fighter jet to pay their final respects to the 22-year-old airman from Macon, Ga.

Chief Master Sgt. Robert Henson, the squadron’s top enlisted airman, gave some insight on how Nathan — known as “Nate” to his friends — conducted business within the unit.

Standing at a podium in the shadow of a massive U.S. flag, Henson told the silent crowd of Nathan’s excellence in his certifications and duties. He assisted in a drug bust and numerous in-flight emergencies and volunteered hours of his time to the base’s veterinary clinic.

Tech. Sgt. Lance Smith, the squadron’s Alpha Flight chief, recalled giving Nathan his initial training when he came to the unit last year.

“He was very eager to learn. He would come up with some questions that you wouldn’t expect from a young first-term airman, Smith said following the ceremony.

Nathan’s eagerness didn’t go unnoticed, as he was later selected to replace an ill airman on a security forces team heading to Iraq.

“That team leader made a by-name request for Nate due to the difficult nature of the mission. Nate was very excited [about] the news,” Henson said.

Unfortunately, Nathan’s willingness to deploy put him in harm’s way.

While he was returning to Camp Speicher from a police station in Tikrit, where his team was training an Iraqi police force, a makeshift bomb detonated on the passenger side of his vehicle.

“Having been hit, Nate fell instantly inside his vehicle,” said Henson, who added that the airman was pronounced dead later at a combat support hospital.

A memorial fund has been set up in Nathan’s honor to support his mother in Georgia. Donations can be made to the fund at the Community Banks on RAFs Lakenheath and Mildenhall, or at Building 1092, the 48th Security Forces Squadron headquarters.

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