Veterans

June 1, 2012

Running to Remember

By 1st Lt. Laura Balch
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — “There’s never a day I don’t remember the guys, the crash.  Never a day I don’t hurt.  I wake up thinking about it.  I go to bed thinking about it.  There’s nothing you can do except put your head down and keep pushing…  But I want people to know about the incredible strength they all had when everything was going bad, when they knew that their chances of survival were little to none.  How they did everything possible to keep that bird in the air.  They were true professionals.  All the way up to impact… everybody maintained their character until the end.”– Master Sgt. Christopher Aguilera, a survivor of the “Pedro 66” crash.

On June 18, 2010, a memorial service was held for two of five Airmen killed when an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter crashed during a medevac mission in southeastern Afghanistan, June 9, 2010. Among those killed were Capt Joel Gentz, a combat rescue officer assigned to the 58th Rescue Squadron, and Staff Sgt. David Smith, a helicopter flight engineer assigned to the 66th Rescue Squadron. Friday, June 8, 2012, Nellis personnel will participate in a ‘Running to Remember’’ memorial run event which honors the “Pedro 66” Airmen killed in the crash.

Five Airmen were killed due to the June 9, 2010, HH-60G Pave Hawk “Pedro 66” crash caused by hostile enemy fire striking the helicopter while on its way to rescue wounded British soldiers in southeastern Afghanistan.  These Airmen were: Capt. Joel Gentz, Capt. David Wisniewski, Tech. Sgt. Michael Flores, Staff Sgt. David Smith and Senior Airman Benjamin White.  They are survived by Capt. Anthony Simone, the “Pedro 66” co-pilot, Master Sgt. Aguilera, the “Pedro 66” gunner, and countless family members and friends who consider these men to be exemplars of the pararescue motto: That Others May Live.

“When the bullets were flying and patients bleeding out, he was always calm, cool and collected… he was the guy you wanted there.”

Robert Martinez, 88th Test and Evaluation Squadron project manager, remembers Tech. Sgt. Michael Flores as an easy-going, but incredibly reliable and talented pararescueman and a loving husband and father.

“I set Flores and Marissa up on their first date,” said Martinez.  “Marissa later became Flores’ wife and they had two children together.  Flores was a family man.”

Senior Airman Benjamin White of Erwin, Tenn., was also a pararescueman and was on his first deployment when the crash occurred.

“He said he finally felt a sense of purpose — that he was doing what he was supposed to do,” said his sister-in-law, Ashlee White.

Both Flores and White were assigned to the 48th Rescue Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., when they lost their lives.  They were augmenting a deployment that primarily consisted of Nellis AFB rescue personnel.

Master Sgt. Aguilera remembers Staff Sgt. David Smith, a flight engineer from the 66th Rescue Squadron, as a great friend and a comic book enthusiast.

“He was writing his own comic book and developing his own characters,” said Aguilera, 66th RQS flight chief and first sergeant.  “Smith was very unique and was coming up with things no was else was thinking about.

“And he loved his fiancé and his family,” continued Aguilera.  “He was really looking forward to going home to a huge family reunion that he had been planning for years.”

Capt. David Wisniewski, who passed away due to his injuries almost one month after the crash occurred, was the “Pedro 66” pilot.

“Wisniewski was extremely intelligent… scary smart,” said Aguilera.  “He was a great multi-tasker and could do things I didn’t know the ‘60’ was capable of.

Capt. Joel Gentz, 58th Rescue Squadron combat rescue officer, was one of five Airmen killed due to hostile enemy fire striking of the “Pedro 66” helicopter while on its way to rescue wounded British soldiers June 9, 2010, in southeastern Afghanistan. In remembrance of the Airmen, the Nellis rescue squadrons are holding a memorial run at 7 a.m. June 8, 2012, at the 58th RQS. Anyone with base access is welcome to register for the run at https://secure.acceptiva.com/?cst=db619c.

“He was also a huge sci-fi geek, but he started watching Glee,” Aguilera recollected with a smile on his face.  “He would record episodes and make everyone watch.”

The fifth Airman, Capt. Joel Gentz, was the first Combat Rescue Officer to be killed in combat.

“Joel was excellent at everything – his job, being a leader – he was a well-rounded individual,” said Maj. Jose Cabrera, 58th RQS director of operations.  “Whenever we needed help with something, he was the first to volunteer.  He always had a positive attitude and a big smile.”

In light of the upcoming two-year anniversary of the crash, the members of the Nellis rescue squadrons wanted to do something to remember these five heroes who were their friends.

“Joel was also an avid runner and he loved to help other people run,” said Cabrera.  So when we were deciding how we can commemorate him and the other members of the crew who passed away, we thought we should put together a memorial run.

As a result, the 58th and 66th Rescue Squadrons created a memorial run event which honors the “Pedro 66” Airmen and benefits the “That Others May Live” Foundation, which is a non-profit charitable organization that provides scholarships, family counseling, and aid to surviving children of the U.S. Air Force rescue heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice during a rescue mission, training or other personnel recovery collateral mission.

The event will take place Friday, June 8th at 7 a.m. at the 58th Rescue Squadron.  Anyone with base access is welcome to register online at https://secure.acceptiva.com/?cst=db619c.  The cost is $35 and all proceeds will benefit the TOML foundation.  The first 300 registrants will receive a free t-shirt.  The event includes three different runs: 1 mile fun run, 6.6k and 6.6 mile, and top finishers will receive a medal.  For more information about the run, contact Jared Jaime at jared.jaime@nellis.af.mil.

“It’s always important to honor fallen comrades,” said Master Sgt. Derek Docter, 88th TES Operations NCO in charge.  Even though they’re gone, they and their families are not forgotten.  This run is our way of remembering.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Thomas Spangler

TAP prepares service members for life after military

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Thomas Spangler Ellie Bogensperger, 99th Force Support Squadron community readiness specialist, instructs a class during the Transition Assistance Program on Goals, Plans, Success and Re...
 
 

VA Begins Monthly Inspections to Restore Scheduling Integrity

WASHINGTON — Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan D. Gibson June 18 directed all of the department’s medical center and health care system directors to conduct monthly in-person reviews of scheduling practices in every clinic within their jurisdiction. Site inspections will include observing daily scheduling processes and interacting with scheduling staff to ensure all policies are bei...
 
 

VA launches online tool to calculate Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits

WASHINGTON — The Veterans Affairs Department Feb. 4 launched a new online tool to make it easier for veterans, service members and family members to calculate their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits and learn more about VA’s approved colleges, universities and other education and training programs across the country. “We are pleased that Post-9/11 veterans are...
 

 

VA warns of marketing scam

WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs recently posted an alert on its Facebook page warning of a marketing scam targeting veterans. A marketing company has purchased telephone numbers that differ by one digit from the VA’s national call center and the GI Bill call center. Callers who misdial and reach the fraudulent numbers will...
 
 
U.S. Air Force photo by Lorenz Crespo

Until they all come home: POWs remember their captivity

U.S. Air Force photo by Lorenz Crespo From left, Carroll Knutson, Gene Ramos, Jack Leaming, former prisoners of war, and Col. Pete Ford, 57th Adversary Tactics Group commander and guest speaker, render a salute during the Natio...
 
 

First Lady announces certification plan for veteran jobs

WASHINGTON, D.C. — First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled the new Information Technology Training and Certification Partnership April 29 to put thousands of service members to work with industry-recognized IT certifications in hand before they leave the military. Obama, who made the announcement at the White House Forum on Military Credentialing and Licensing at the White House,...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin