EDGEMONT, S.D. - More than 100 North Carolina National Guard airmen, soldiers, staff and supporters flew from the North Carolina National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing’s Air Base in Charlotte, N.C., to honor and remember the crew of NCNG’s Modular Airborne Firefighting System flight seven (MAFFS 7) here, July 1.
The N.C. Air National Guard C-130 Hercules aircraft crashed nearby while executing wildfire aerial firefighting duties, July 1, 2012. The crash killed four crewmembers and injured two.
An investigation after the fatality determined the crash was caused by strong winds of a thunderstorm that caused the aircraft to impact the ground along a ridge top northeast of Edgemont.
Family members, along with a NCNG delegation joined fellow mourners from the region at a memorial for the Air Force crew members: Lt. Col. Paul Mikeal, Maj. Joseph McCormick, Maj. Ryan David and Senior Master Sgt. Robert Cannon and the two NCNG Airmen injured in the crash, Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Andrew Huneycutt and Sgt. Josh Marlowe.
Local officials including South Dakota Lt. Gov. Matt Michels joined NCNG dignitaries, Army Maj. Gen. Greg Lusk, adjutant general of North Carolina and Huneycutt to unveil the memorial. Together they pulled the cover from the display detailing the crew’s mission to fight the White Draw Fire that threatened local lives and property in 2012.
“It means the world to me that they are being remembered,” said Marlo Mikeal, widow of Lt. Col. Paul Mikeal, a pilot on the aircraft. “Paul was an incredible man all the way around. I was very lucky to have him in my life.”
Marlo Mikeal was bout one of the family members of the other crew, along with Chief Master Sgt. Huneycutt, the injured Airmen from MAFFS 7, who attended the memorial and the interpretive site dedication.
The interpretive site is located almost seven miles north of Edgemont along Highway 18 and overlooks the ridge where the aircraft crashed while fighting the White Draw fire last year.
"The people of South Dakota and of North Carolina are forever bound together now because of this event,” said Lusk. “Not only because we did eventually have a successful outcome of the White Draw fire, but just this tribute that will be here for an eternity.”
The site was constructed my members of the South Dakota National Guard and the Black Hills National Forest.
The MAFFS 7 designator and Air Force tail number were retired last July in a ceremony held in Charlotte.