Hurlburt Honors Fallen U-28A Crew Members
by Airman 1st Class Michelle Vickers - March 3, 2012 (video
HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (2/29/2012) - More than 2,000 Air
Commandos, fellow special operations service members,
civilians and families gathered to remember four fallen
airmen during a memorial ceremony at the Freedom Hangar on
Hurlburt Field Feb. 28.
A memorial of tactical gear, a folded flag, and photos of four fallen airmen rest on display during a memorial service at Freedom Hangar on Hurlburt Field, Fla., during a memorial service held Feb. 28, 2012. The memorial honored the service and contributions made by Capt. Ryan P. Hall from the 319th Special Operations Squadron, Capt. Nicholas S. Whitlock and 1st Lt. Justin J. Wilkens from the 34th Special Operations Squadron and Senior Airman Julian S. Scholten
from the 25th Intelligence Squadron who all died in a Feb. 18, 2012
U-28A crash in Djibouti. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class
Capt. Ryan P. Hall from the 319th Special Operations Squadron, Capt.
Nicholas S. Whitlock and 1st Lt. Justin J. Wilkens from the 34th
Special Operations Squadron and Senior Airman Julian S. Scholten
from the 25th Intelligence Squadron died Feb. 18 when their U-28A
was involved in an accident near Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, located
in the Horn of Africa.
"It's a sad time for us, obviously,
but we will continue to do our duty just like the exemplars we honor
today did theirs," said Col. Jim Slife, commander of the 1st Special
Operations Wing. "We have the nation's important and unfinished work
yet to do and we are being lifted up by a cloud of angels, bidden to
our presence by the thoughts, prayers and encouragement of our
brothers-in-arms from around the globe."
Hall, 30, was a
U-28A pilot on his seventh deployment. He entered the Air Force in
2004, receiving his commission through the Reserve Officer Training
Corps at the Citadel. He had been assigned to the 319th SOS at
Hurlburt Field since 2007 and had more than 1,300 combat flight
"Whenever a need arose, or a crisis hit, Ryan was the first
to jump in to help," said Lt. Col. Patrick Daley, commander
of the 319th SOS. "[Be they] squadron member, spouse,
friend, even strangers - the light from Ryan's caring heart
Whitlock, 29, was also a U-28A pilot
and was on his fifth deployment. He entered the Air Force in
2006, receiving his commission through the Officer Training
School. He had been assigned to the 319th SOS and then to
the 34th SOS at Hurlburt Field since 2008 and had more
than 800 combat flight hours.
"Nick was a disciplined
warrior," said Lt. Col. William Winans, director of
operations for the 34th SOS. "He knew the risks associated
with our mission-set, and he mitigated those risks through
his technical competence and his charismatic leadership
Wilkens, 26, was a combat systems officer on
his third deployment. He entered the Air Force in 2009,
receiving his commission through the Air Force Academy. He
had been assigned to the 34th SOS at Hurlburt Field since
April 2011 and had more than 400 combat hours.
"Justin didn't just have a highlight reel from the field of
battle," Winans said. "He did it all, from teaching English
classes to security forces, to being the go-to guy with all
the high-tech systems on the airplane. There was nothing he
didn't do exceptionally well."
Scholten, 26, was a
mission systems operator assigned to the 25th IS at Hurlburt
Field since 2009. He enlisted in the Air Force in 2007. He
had more than 900 combat hours in six different airframes
and was on his third deployment.
"During his initial
two deployments, Julian literally wrote the book on how to
conduct our operations, an amazing feat for a young Airman
fresh through the pipeline," said Lt. Col. Matthew Atkins,
commander of 25th IS. "Airman Scholten's excellence as an
Airman was a direct reflection of his personality and
character, and his smile was as quick as his wit."
The ceremony concluded with an honor guard firing party
rendering a three-volley salute, a bugler sounding taps and
a bagpipe player's rendition of "Amazing Grace."
honor the crew of Ratchet 33 by continuing their work, by
taking to the skies once again, to provide the critical air
component of a demanding and effective joint team," said
Col. Jeffrey Kruse, commander of the 361st Intelligence,
Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group. "Today we mourn,
tomorrow we lift our eyes and our hearts. Today we grieve,
tomorrow we take to the skies and soar. Today we feel
loss, but because of Ratchet 33, tomorrow instead of loss we
have the promise of victory."
The U-28A is a single
engine, manned fixed wing aircraft developed around the
Pilatus PC-12 airframe that provides intelligence,
surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in support of
special operations forces.
The cause of the crash is
unknown at this time. The Air Force is committed to a
thorough investigation, and more information will be
released as it becomes available.
More photos below . . . followed by
video of the memorial service
By Airman 1st Class Michelle Vickers 1st Special
Operations Wing Public Affairs
through DVIDS Copyright 2012