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    10 years later, Mustang 22 flies on in memorial and memories

    10 years later, Mustang 22 flies on in memorial and memories

    Photo By Sgt. Michael Orton | A large crowd pay its respect to the fallen Soldiers of Mustang 22. The crew of the...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. Michael Orton 

    Nevada Joint Force Headquarters Public Affairs

    RENO, Nev. – Last autumn marked the 10th anniversary since the Nevada National Guard lost two Soldiers in the worst helicopter accident in Nevada Guard history. Chief Warrant Officer 3 John Flynn and Sgt. Patrick Stewart were killed on Sept. 25, 2005, when their CH-47 Chinook helicopter, Mustang 22, was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade while flying over Afghanistan. Warrant Officer Adrian Stump and Sgt. Tane Baum, both with the Oregon National Guard, and active duty Sgt. Kenneth Ross of Arizona were also killed in the incident.

    Flynn and Stewart were the second and third Nevada Guard Soldiers to die while fighting the Global War on Terrorism. The first was Spc. Anthony Cometa, who was killed three months earlier in a rollover accident on June 16, 2005, in Iraq.

    A memorial ceremony allowed a large group of attendees to pay respect to the fallen at the Mustang 22 memorial at the Nevada Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility in Stead. Brig. Gen. Robert Herbert, then Col. Zachary Doser and Col. Joanne Farris were in attendance.

    “Today we reflect on the tremendous sacrifices made by our Nevada Guard Soldiers,” Farris said during the ceremony. “Each of them knew their duty, but surely dreamed of going home to people they loved and the life they cherished. My prayers go to the courageous families of these brave Soldiers who will never forget but have the courage to move on.”

    Ten years ago, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Roger Capps was the commanding officer of the Mustang 22 crew and the rest of the “Mustangs” attached to the Nevada Army Guard’s D Company, 113th Aviation Battalion, known today as 1/189th Aviation.

    After the crash, Capps spoke at the ramp ceremony in Kandahar, Afghanistan, to honor the Soldiers of Mustang 22 who would never return home. Capps shared the same eulogy he gave 10 years ago during the memorial.

    “As those indelible words came through the SATCOMM [satellite communications] radio – ‘Total loss’ – I still search for the meaning,” Capps said. “After the flight in the Black Hawk, which seemed to take forever, and then standing in the midst of the crash site, I understood half of the meaning of total loss. The other half would come watching the reactions and emotions of my Soldiers and how they were dealing with the news. I wish I had the power to take the burden off their shoulders.”

    During their 2005 deployment in Afghanistan, the Mustangs were assigned to Task Force Storm and flew operations throughout the warzone. On the morning of Sept. 25, Mustang 22 led a deliberate assault team of three CH-47 Chinooks, two AH-64 Apaches and two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters into the mountains in search of Taliban insurgents.

    About 180 miles outside of Kabul, Afghanistan, Mustang 22 reached its destination and unloaded a company of 173rd Airborne Brigade Soldiers. Shortly after takeoff, Mustang 22 was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade and crashed, killing all five on board.

    “We have a dangerous occupation, which we’ve all accepted at one point or another, and we manage the pain of remembering our friends that perished as a crew doing what they loved,” Capps said at the memorial ceremony. “Every one of us in aviation knows the risk, relish in the excitement and remember the joy. Basically, we love to be around helicopters and marvel at the sight, the sound and the capabilities that they have. This is not just love, but a lifestyle we share and the crew of Mustang 22 knew it best of all.”

    On Sept. 25, 2010, the Nevada National Guard dedicated a memorial to the Soldiers of Mustang 22 at the AASF. The memorial was designed to honor Mustang 22 in several ways. One side of a large granite plaque bears the names and short biographies of each Soldier, while the other displays a large Chinook helicopter and the words, “In Memory of Mustang 22.” The memorial’s outer wall measures 60 feet in circumference, which is the same length as a Chinook’s rotors, and the inner wall measures 22 feet in circumference in honor of the helicopter’s name. A set of clock hands point to 0305Z, or 7:35 a.m. – the time Mustang 22 was shot down.

    Flynn was born and raised in Reno and enlisted with the Nevada National Guard’s 1150th Medical Detachment (Air Ambulance) before graduating from Reno High in 1987. In 1992, he graduated from aviation pilot training at Fort Rucker, Alabama and returned to the unit as a pilot. As recognition for his flight skills, Flynn was selected to attend the CH-47 instructor’s pilot course in 2001.

    Stewart was also a Reno native and graduated from Washoe High in 1989. He later enlisted with the active duty Army as a medium helicopter mechanic and subsequently joined the Nevada Army Guard in 2002. Stewart was a Wiccan and his wife, Roberta Stewart, fought for many years to have a Wiccan pentacle on the headstone of his grave at the Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Fernley, Nevada.

    In November of 2006, Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn approved the pentacle to be placed on Stewart’s headstone, and the following year, Americans United for Separation of Church and State announced that the religious symbol was officially included among the emblems allowed on all veterans’ headstones and grave markers.

    “Pat loved to fly,” said Roberta Stewart. “For him, it was an honor to serve his country, and for me, today was very special to honor him, but also honor all the Mustangs for the job they did.”

    During their deployment, 18 of the Mustang’s helicopters sustained damage during combat operations. The unit completed 159 air assault missions, 259 quick reaction force missions, 320 medical evacuations and 1,015 combat service support missions. The Mustangs flew 6,799 combat hours, pumped more than 3 million gallons of fuel and transported more than 10 million pounds of cargo and 47,000 passengers.

    “To our friends, the crew of Mustang 22 – you will always be with us, may you always have a tailwind and may the skies always be clear for you and your journey,” Capps said. “For tomorrow we will all say, ‘One and two clear to flight.’”



    Date Taken: 09.25.2015
    Date Posted: 01.08.2016 15:00
    Story ID: 185925
    Location: CAMP STEAD, NV, US

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