Tuesday, December 12, 2006

'tis the season

Today has a special place in my memory, as it was just a (relatively) few short years ago that many friends of mine lost their lives in what's been said to be the "the worst U.S. military air disaster." (Tennessean.com, 2005)

Lots of soldiers, returning from a peacekeeping mission, lost their lives that day, but one stands out in my mind the most.

Virgil Robertson and I worked together at Fort Campbell in the Spring of 1985. One of us was to be chosen to accompany the troops on a peacekeeping mission in Sinai, Egypt. Neither of us were really excited about the opportunity, but we were both prepared to serve our country.

We were both trained to conduct investigations for the military. We were both recently married. We both had a young child at home. I hadn't yet been to The Air Assault School at Fort Campbell (a training tradition - http://www.campbell.army.mil/aas/).

Virgil was chosen to go on the Sinai mission. He (and 247 others) never returned. I attended Air Assault School after he departed.

For a tribute to those who died in Gander, Newfoundland, on this day in 1985, check out my website.



The Tennessean - December 12, 2005
Gander crash mystery still haunts - 20 years ago, a plane with 248 soldiers of 101st went down; no one's sure if killer was icy fate or cold-hearted terrorism
Staff Writer
The DC-8 charter sat on the tarmac at the Gander, Newfoundland, airport for 89 minutes while it was refueled that cold night, Dec. 12, 1985.
It was after 3 a.m. CST, but the passengers, all Fort Campbell soldiers, milled about the terminal to fight jet lag. They joked with employees, made purchases at the duty-free shop and broke out in song — Christmas carols.
The 248 soldiers, about one-third of the 3rd Battalion of the 502nd Infantry Regiment, were due to arrive at Campbell Army Airfield in Kentucky six hours later, after a six-month peacekeeping deployment on the Sinai Peninsula.
At 4:15 a.m., the DC-8 began its takeoff on Gander's runway 22, its Pratt & Whitney engines throttled up to a screaming roar.
That roar ended less than 60 seconds later, when the unsteady plane listed to the right at 500 feet and fell to earth, into a grove of mature ash and black spruce trees. On impact, 101,000 pounds of jet fuel erupted in a ball of orange fire that could be seen for more than 10 miles.
Every one of the 245 men and three women, along with the eight-person Arrow Air flight crew, perished in the fiery impact. The crash remains the worst aviation disaster in Canadian history and the worst U.S. military air disaster.