News: Fallen Pilots Honored During Plaque Dedication Ceremony
Story by Sgt. Mark Fayloga
FORWARD OPERATING BASE GERONIMO, Afghanistan - Marines at Forward Operating Base Geronimo, Afghanistan, honored the sacrifice of two pilots from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369 during a plaque dedication ceremony Nov. 7.
The pilot team of Lt. Col. Mario D. Carazo and Maj. James M. Weis, known by their crew call sign of “Dealer 54,” were killed in action while supporting combat operations for 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, in July.
Senior leadership from HMLA-369 flew to FOB Geronimo to attend the dedication ceremony where the pilots were remembered for their selfless support to the battalion before their memorial plaque was placed on Forward Operating Base Geronimo’s wall of the fallen.
“They repeatedly went above and beyond to support their brethren Marines who were in contact with enemy forces,” Capt. Patrick Kelly, the 3/3 air officer, said. “Regardless of the conditions, regardless of the risk, Lt. Col. Carazo and
Maj. Weis marched to the sound of the guns. Their sacrifice will not be forgotten.”
Dealer 54 had provided air support for 3/3 on several occasions before, to include the recovery mission of one of 3/3’s fallen Marines.
When Dealer 54’s final flight ended in tragedy, the Marines they were providing close-air support for ceased their operation and ran nearly four miles in the desert’s summer heat to recover the downed pilots.
“What truly humbles me is how the roles shifted from a supporting role, to now these fallen Marines are the supported,” Lt. Col. Michael A. Moore, the commanding officer of HMLA-369, said to the Marines in attendance, many of whom were there the day of the crash. “To help secure our fallen warriors and get them back home to the states - to their loved ones. I can’t tell you how much that means to me personally and to their families.”