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    Remembering our fallen pilots

    Remembering our fallen pilots

    Photo By Master Sgt. Tyrone Marshall | Chief Warrant Officer Two Billie Jean Grinder, pilot, OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, 1st...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. Tyrone Marshall 

    25th Combat Aviation Brigade

    TIKRIT, IRAQ — Two U.S. Army OH-58D pilots who were killed as a result of a helicopter accident in Ninewa province, Feb. 21, were remembered by their comrades during a memorial service in Tal Afar, Iraq, Feb. 25.

    Captain Marcus R. Alford, 28, of Knoxville, Tenn., and Chief Warrant Officer Two Billie J. Grinder, 25, of Gallatin, Tenn., of the 1st Squadron, 230th Air Cavalry Squadron, from Murfreesboro, Tenn., died, Feb. 21, in Qayyarah West, Iraq, of wounds suffered from the accident.

    "Marcus was serious about his duties, confident in his abilities and confident in the cockpit," said Col. Kris Durham, commander, 1/230 ACS. "He was tireless in his pursuit of perfection, and his care for his Soldiers was unquestionable. During our deployment, he excelled as platoon leader, even though his platoon was separated by more than 120 miles from the rest of his troop.

    "Billie Jean was a quick learner and rapidly progressed to pilot-in-command. Her natural abilities and desire for perfection earned her the respect of every crew member she flew with. An extremely confident and talented aviator, her dream was to fly. She became very well known to our ground commanders during deployment due to her outstanding mission support. There is no better compliment than those received from the units she supported."

    "My earliest recollection of Marcus Alford was as a promising young lieutenant with a promising future, a contagious smile and a determination to overcome any obstacle," said Maj. Steven Todd, operations officer, 1/230 ACS. "He had the unique ability to blend just the right amounts of confidence and humility to make him stand out."

    Alford is survived by his daughter, Mya, son, Marcus Jr., his parents, Mr. Michael Alford and Ms. Karen Ray, and his brother, Jerry Ray.

    "Billie Jean was one of the most unique people I have ever known and had such a variety of diverse things she enjoyed doing. She had so many traits and sides to her that I will never be able to capture or explain," said Capt. Dianna Wynns, human resources officer, 1/230 ACS. "Life to Billie Jean was a wonderful adventure. She was part of an elite group of women — female aviators. She was a Soldier who cared more about others than herself and was one of the most unselfish people I have ever met. She loved being a Soldier, but most of all she loved being a pilot."

    Grinder is survived by her husband, Samuel, her two stepdaughters, Megan and Makayla, her mother and stepfather, Roxanne and Billy Davenport, her sister, Melissa Baronivic, and her brothers, James Marhevka and Shang Fame.

    "Both these outstanding warriors had a few things in common: love of country, passion for flying and knowing they were fighting for a cause greater than themselves," Col. Durham remarked. "[They died] defending freedom, promoting democracy, and providing security for our brothers and sisters-in-arms as well as the Iraqi people. They knew the risks the mission demanded. They believed in what they were doing and knew they were making a difference in this world, and I know they both made a difference in mine."



    Date Taken: 02.25.2010
    Date Posted: 02.28.2010 13:35
    Story ID: 45960
    Location: TIKRIT, IQ 

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