Final Flights in Armed Conflict

This page is dedicated to honoring those members of our Air Force helicopter family who paid the supreme sacrifice while engaged in an armed conflict, other than the war in SEA, in the preservation of freedom for our great country.

"Operation Enduring Freedom - Afghanistan"

April 6, 2013

CMSgt Nick McCaskill a P.J. was killed, along with a U.S. diplomat, a U.S. civilian and two other U.S. services personal while delivering books to an Afghan school, when a suicide bomber struck their convoy in southern Afghanistan's Zabul province.

August 06, 2011

TSgt. John W. Brown a P.J. with the 24th Special Tactics Squadron at Pope AFB, NC. was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan when the CH-47 Chinook helicopter he was aboard was shot down. 

TSgt. Daniel L. Zerbe a P.J. with the 24th Special Tactics Squadron at Pope AFB, NC. was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan when the CH-47 Chinook helicopter he was aboard was shot down. 

July 2, 2010 (Pedro 66)

Captain David A. Wisniewski, 31, an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter pilot whose helicopter crashed in southeastern Afghanistan June 9, 2010. He was assigned to the 66th Rescue Squadron at Nellis AFB, NV., passed away at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., July 2, 2010 from injuries received during the June 9, 2010 incident. Four other Airmen were killed (see below) and two were wounded.  (Final Flight)

June 9, 2010 (Pedro 66)

1st Lieutenant Joel C. Gentz was 25 years old and from Grass Lake, Michigan. He served as a Combat Rescue Officer with the 58th Rescue Squadron from Nellis AFB, NV. He was on his first deployment with more than 50 hours of combat time. (Final Flight)

Technical Sergeant Michael P. Flores was 33 years old and assigned to the 48th Rescue Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona and had previously been stationed at Nellis AFB, NV. He was serving on his eighth deployment as a Pararescueman and had earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for Heroism, twelve Air Medals and was one day shy of serving twelve years in the Air Force.  (Final Flight) 

Staff Sergeant David C. Smith was a 26 year-old Helicopter Flight Engineer from Eight Mile, Alabama (near Mobile, Alabama), assigned to the 66th Rescue Squadron from Nellis AFB, NV. A decorated airman during his nine year career, he earned five Air Medals as a veteran of numerous deployments in support of Operation Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.  (Final Flight) 

Senior Airman Benjamin D. White, 24 years-old, of Erwin, Tennessee and assigned to the 48th Rescue Squadron, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, AZ. He was a Pararescueman who had served nearly four years in the Air Force and even though he was on his first deployment, he dedicated himself to answering the call to recover the wounded as well as downed and injured aircrew members in austere and non-permissive environments. (Final Flight)

These four men died June 9, near Forward Operating Base Jackson in southeastern Afghanistan, when the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter was reportedly struck by hostile fire and crashed. Three other crewmembers, from the 66th Rescue Squadron at Nellis AFB, NV., were wounded. They are being treated at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany. The helicopter was providing casualty evacuation support to British troops at the time of the attack, according to The New York Times. The newspaper, quoting a Taliban spokesman, said insurgents shot down the helicopter over the Sangin district bazaar with a rocket-propelled grenade. The airmen and aircraft involved were assigned to the 563rd Rescue Group, a geographically-separated unit of the 23rd Wing, Air Combat Command.

"All seven airmen involved in this incident embody the rescue motto, 'These things we do, that others may live,' " Col. Gary Henderson, 23rd Wing commander, said in a statement.

"Pedro 66" Memorial Video

Added Information: Aircraft lost was 89-26201 "Snow Ball". It started off at the Air Force Reserves 304th Rescue Squadron, 939th Rescue Wing in Portland, OR., and was the helicopter that rolled down Mt. Hood on 30 May 2002 during a rescue attempt.  After Portland was shut down, it was reassigned to Davis Monthan AFB, AZ on active duty.

(Added information courtesy of Kevin Fogg) 

April 8, 2010

Maj. Randell D. Voas and Senior Master Sgt. James B. Lackey from the 8th Special Operations Squadron died April 8, 2010 when their CV-22 Osprey crashed in southern Afghanistan.

The CV-22 was carrying U.S. Forces when it crashed approximately 1 a.m. about seven miles west of Qalat City, in Zabul Province. An Army Soldier and a civilian employee also died in the crash, and several other service members were injured. The injured were transported to a nearby base for medical treatment.      

Major Voas, 43, was a CV-22 evaluator pilot and a former MH-53 pilot.  Previously a Chief Warrant Officer in the Army, he received his Air Force commission through Officer Training School in 1999.  In 2003 Major Voas (then a 1st. Lt.) was a co-recipient of the Cheney Award (see story on the "Awards-Cheney Award" page (Cheney Award). He flew MH-53 PAVE LOW helicopters until 2003 before becoming a UH-1 flight instructor at Fort Rucker, Ala., and he began training on the CV-22 in 2006.  He had more than 160 combat flight hours. (Final Flight).

Sergeant Lackey, 45, was a CV-22 evaluator flight engineer and a former MH-53 flight engineer.  He enlisted in the Air Force in 1986 and became an aircraft maintenance crew chief.  In 1992, he began MH-53 flight engineer training and flew on the PAVE LOW for 14 years before becoming a CV-22 flight engineer student in 2006.  He received a Distinguished Flying Cross in 2002 for acts of heroism in combat. (Final Flight)

The 8th SOS completed its first CV-22 combat deployment in November 2009, and returned to Afghanistan in March for its second deployment. 

“The Hurlburt Field community shares in the sorrow felt by the Voas and Lackey families, and our efforts are focused on seeing them through this difficult time,” said Col. Greg Lengyel. “We must not forget the valuable contributions Randy and “JB” made to their country and community.”

The CV-22 is a tilt rotor aircraft which enables U.S. Special Operations Command to conduct night-time, long-range, infiltration and ex-filtration missions. Its versatility, speed and vertical-lift capability is not met by any other existing fixed- or rotary-wing platform.

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.

Hurlburt officials remember, honor fallen Airmen

by Senior Airman Ryan Whitney
1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

4/16/2010 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AFNS) -- More than 1,800 service members, families and friends gathered to celebrate the lives of two fallen Airmen in a joint memorial service April 15 here.

Maj. Randell Voas, an 8th Special Operations Squadron evaluator pilot, and Senior Master Sgt. James Lackey, an 8th SOS evaluator flight engineer, died when their CV-22 Osprey crashed in southern Afghanistan April 8.

"Today we honor and remember two brave men who volunteered their lives and paid the ultimate sacrifice," said Col. Greg Lengyel, the 1st Special Operations Wing commander. "They sacrificed their lives for the defense of our country and our way of life, and it has been my distinct honor to serve with both of these men for many years."

Major Voas, a former Army chief warrant officer, received his commission in 1999 and flew both MH-53 Pave Low and UH-1 Huey helicopters before beginning his training on the CV-22 as part of the initial cadre in 2006. While deployed in 2003, Major Voas supported the largest airdrop since Vietnam, earning the 2003 Cheney Award, and amassed more than 160 combat hours throughout his career.

Sergeant Lackey joined the Air Force in 1986 as an A-10 Thunderbolt II and F-15 Eagle crew chief and later retrained as an MH-53 flight engineer.  He earned various medals and awards including a Distinguished Flying Cross in 2002 for his actions during Operation Enduring Freedom.

"When it came to flying, Randy and JB were a (director of operations) dream," said Lt. Col. Matt Glover, the 8th SOS director of operations. "Flying was their priority, and nothing ever got in the way of that. They instructed with the intangible experience that only flight time could bestow, but more significantly, we lost men who inspired others, men of integrity who set the standards."

During the ceremony, Colonel Lengyel presented the Lackey and Voas families with the medals the Airmen earned for their key roles in the first deployment of the CV-22 in 2009.

Major Voas' family received an Aerial Achievement Medal, Air Medal and a Meritorious Service Medal, while Sergeant Lackey's family was presented an Air Medal and a Meritorious Service Medal.

Army Command Sgt. Maj. Rick Merritt and Army Maj. Nathaniel Farris, both from the 75th Ranger Regiment, presented the families with the Army Ranger scroll, that's earned by those who have fought side-by-side with Army Rangers.

"These two brave men regularly volunteered for dangerous and challenging missions; men who understood the evil intent of our determined enemy and who willingly placed themselves between the enemy and our families," said Col. Buck Elton, the 1st Special Operations Group commander. "When we think of JB and Randy, we will not be reminded of emptiness and sorrow. We will be reminded of men we respect, men we emulate and men we will be forever grateful to have served with."

The families also received a memorial shadowbox and a flag-folding ceremony concluded the memorial service for the two Airmen.

Army Cpl. Michael Jankiewicz, a U.S. Ranger and a civilian employee also died in the in the crash.

The cause of the crash is unknown at this time.

February 18, 2007

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Scott E. Duffman 32, of Albuquerque, NM.; a Pararescueman was assigned to the 24th Special Tactics Squadron, Pope Air Force Base, N.C.; died February 18, 2007 when the coalition CH-47 helicopter he was riding in crashed in eastern Afghanistan.

October 20, 2004

Airman 1st Class Jesse Monroe Samek, 21, (born in 1983) 66th Rescue Squadron, 57th Operations Group, Rogers, AR.

Samek, a HH-60G flight engineer deployed to Afghanistan from the 66th Rescue Squadron based out of Nellis AFB, NV., died of injuries received when an Air Force HH-60G, 87-26014, "Pave Hawk" helicopter accidentally crashed in poor visibility and drift into the terrain during a medical evacuation mission 105 miles (170 kilometers) east of Shindand, Afghanistan, on October 20, 2004. (Read Story)

November 23, 2003

Master Sgt. William J. Kerwood, 37, 20th Special Operations Squadron, 16th Special Operations Wing, Houston, MO. 

Maj. Steven Plumhoff, 33, 58th Special Operations Squadron, 58th Special Operations Wing, Neshanic Station, NJ.

Staff Sgt. Thomas A. Walkup Jr., 25, 20th Special Operations Squadron, 16th Special Operations Wing, Millville, NJ.

Tech. Sgt. Howard A. Walters, 33, 20th Special Operations Squadron, 16th Special Operations Wing, Port Huron, MI.

All perished when their MH-53M "Pave Low" helicopter #70-1625, call sign "Beatle 12" carrying 13 passengers and crew accidentally crashed shortly after leaving Bagram AB in Afghanistan on November 23, 2003. The helicopter was on its third sortie of the day. The Air Force concluded the helicopter had a compressor problem in one of the two engines causing it to stall, leaving it with one engine operating and far too much weight to carry in the thin mountain air. The pilots "attempted to jettison the auxiliary tanks without success" and then the other engine stalled while an emergency landing was being attempted. With all power lost, the helicopter fell from an altitude of about 200 feet onto an uneven river bank, rolled over and burst into flames. Eight people somehow managed to survive - but four Air Force personnel and one Army officer were killed.

March 23, 2003

(HH-60G Komodo 11)

(CP) Capt. Tamara L. Archuleta, 23, 41st Rescue Squadron, 347th Rescue Wing, Los Lunas, NM.

(FE) Staff Sgt. Jason Hicks, 25, 41st Rescue Squadron, 347th Rescue Wing, Jefferson, SC.

(PJ) Master Sgt. Michael Maltz, 42, 38th Rescue Squadron, 347th Rescue Wing, St. Petersburg, FL.

(PJ) Senior Airman Jason Plite, 21, 38th Rescue Squadron, 347th Rescue Wing, Lansing, MI.

(P) Lt. Col. John Stein, 39, 41st Rescue Squadron, 347th Rescue Wing, Bardolph, IL.

(FE) Staff Sgt. John Teal, 29, 41st Rescue Squadron, 347th Rescue Wing, Dallas, TX.

All perished when their HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter crashed while on the way to help two injured Afghan children on March 23, 2003.

March 4, 2002

Senior Airman Jason D. Cunningham, 26, 38th Rescue Squadron Camarillo, California.

An Air Force Pararescueman, Cunningham was shot and wounded on Takur Ghar during Operation Anaconda on March 4, 2002.  He died while waiting to be evacuated.  He was involved in a rescue mission for a Navy SEAL who was surrounded by enemy forces. (Final Flight)

August 12, 2002

An Air Force HH-60G "Pave Hawk" crashed in Urgun, injuring six on board. A civilian wounded in an ambush had been taken from the eastern town of Khost to a U.S. medical team in Urgun, and the Air Force helicopter was leaving when the accident occurred.

November 02, 2001

Air Force MH-53J 69-5791 crashed near Okak, Afghanistan, on a special operations mission in northern Afghanistan due to bad weather, injuring four on board.

"Operation Enduring Freedom - Iraq"

April 12, 2004

MH-53M, 69-5797 "Pave Low" of 16th SOW/20th SOS shot down by RPG near Fallujah, three on board are wounded. Helicopter was later destroyed. Major Edwards was one of the crew on board.

"Operation Enduring Freedom - Philippines"

February 21, 2002

Master Sgt. William L. McDaniel II, 29, Greenville, OH.

Staff Sgt. Juan M. Ridout, 36, Maple Tree, WA

Both were Pararescueman assigned to Echo Company, 320th Special Tactics Squadron, part of the 353rd Special Operations Group, Kadena AB Okinawa.

The 320th Special Tactics Squadron, Kadena AB, Japan was tasked to deploy forces to the Philippines in support of Balikatan 02-1. Both PJs and CCT were deployed. Ballikatan is a joint combined military operation between the Philippine and American military. The purpose of the operation is to conduct counter terrorist operations against Abu Sayyaf. This terrorist group is associated with El Qaeda and is one of the cells President Bush has vowed to bring to justice.

These two PJs were supporting combat operations against an Osama Bin Ladin cell in the southern Philippines that call themselves Abu Sayaf. They were killed in the crash of an MH-47 on February 21, 2002.


June 25, 1952

Capt. Leslie Wayne Lear (Pilot),  

Det. 1, 3rd Air Rescue Group, Date Of Loss: June 25, 1952, Santa Ana, CA. Place of Loss: Unknown Location. Date Of Final Status: January 25, 1954. Korean War Project Key No: 17092. Mission No:1890

Ronald Dow Eaton (USN) was being rescued by A1C Bob D. 'Bobby' Holloway and Leslie Wayne Lear in helo when it too was shot down. Eaton (chute less) hung onto Holloway with one chute. Eaton couldn't hold on and fell to his death. Lear's fate is still unknown. Holloway was taken POW and was returned alive. Crew bailed out, one open chute observed, crewman captured

EVIDENCE ALIVE: parachuted from copter at 300 ft. Date of Loss: June 25, 1952

Tail Number:49-2000, Aircraft Type:H-5H, Wing or Group:MATS

The unit’s third and final loss of a helicopter crew to enemy fire happened on June 25, 1952.  Capt. Leslie W. Lear (Pilot) and A1C Bob D. Holloway (Medic), both recently arrived in Korea, were to pick up a downed pilot.  Approaching the pickup area in his H-5, Lear requested ResCAP fighters to make a pass and check for ground fire.  The fighters did so and received no enemy fire.  Well before this time, the enemy had learned to wait until the rescue helicopter arrived before opening fire.  Captain Lear began his approach and was fired upon.  Breaking off the approach, he called for the fighters to strafe the area.  They did so.  The H-5 made a run-in, picked up the downed pilot, and began to depart the area while receiving heavy machine gun fire.  About six miles from the pickup area, the fighter pilots reported seeing pieces falling from the helicopter, which was flying at an altitude of about 1,200 feet.  Bailing out at approximately 800 feet, Holloway’s parachute opened and he landed, but enemy soldiers surrounded him immediately.  Airman Holloway was the only ARSvc members know to be captured during the war and later released; he returned stateside shortly after the armistice was signed.  Lear and the rescued pilot also bailed out, but they exited at lower altitudes and were presumed to have died upon impact.

September 13, 1951

1st Lt. Eugene C. Kohfield (Pilot)

PFC Lawrence A. Reid (Medic)

Date of loss: September 13, 1951 Aircraft Type:H-5H, Tail Number: 48-555

Downed by enemy ground fire during attempted rescue of T-6 crew. First loss of 3rd ARS personnel as direct result of enemy action.

The squadron’s first loss of personnel as a direct result of enemy fire occurred on September 13, 1951.  On that day, a ResCAP consisting of four F-51s was escorting an H-5 whose crew had been alerted for the pickup of a T-6 Mosquito pilot and observer that the Rescue Coordination Center had reported down, and which the Mustangs had in sight.  Entering the well-defended area where the men were located, the rescue aircraft was hit.  Pilot 1st Lt. Eugene C. Kohfield, on only his second combat mission, attempted to fly back to friendly territory while calling for another helicopter to attempt the pickup. Kohfield’s H-5 returned home safely, but on approach prior to landing, a blade went out of track, cutting off the helicopter’s tailcone.  The aircraft fell 200 feet end-over-end, instantly killing the pilot and his medic, PFC Lawrence A. Reid.

November 28, 1950

1st Lt. Robert B. Parker (Pilot)

PFC Desmond R. Wilkerson (Medic)

Date of loss: November 28, 1950  H-5H 49-2009

Crashed into mountain in low visibility and darkness, returning to base after F4U pilot pickup in North Korea, low on fuel.  Ens. C. W. Wagner USN F4U pilot.  (A SPECIAL THANKS TO SID NANSON FOR ASSISTANCE IN LOCATING KOREAN LOSSES)

During the Korean War the 3rd ARS

H-5's rescued 730 from behind enemy lines//6,475 were evacuated

H-19's rescued 116 from behind enemy lines//1,898 were evacuated

~The story of this mission and the lives of the men involved is chronicled in the book “Baited Trap, The Ambush of Mission 1890” by Tracy D. Connors~

Integrity, Honor, and Respect
Some of the best things cannot be bought, they must be earned

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