by Staff Sgt. Frances Kriss
62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
11/30/2012 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Team McChord Airmen,
civilians and retirees gathered Nov. 30 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of
the 13 Airmen who were killed when two C-141 Starlifter aircraft collided over
The ceremony took place at the C-141 memorial site in
between the 4th and 8th Airlift Squadron buildings on McChord Field. It began
with an invocation provided by Chap. (Lt. Col.) Matthew Franke, 627th Air Base
"We gather here this morning to remember the 13
McChord Airmen of the 4th, 8th and 36th Airlift Squadrons, who died on the
night of November 30, 1992, in the skies over northern Montana and to remember
and honor those Airmen who have served our nation, who sacrificed so much for
our freedoms," said Franke. "God, we feel a great pain in our hearts
for the friends and families of our fellow Airmen, friends for whom this day is
a yearly reminder of a great loss, families across America who suffer the void
of their missing loved ones. They, too, have borne the heavy burden of freedom."
Franke then read the names of the fallen; Capt. David
Sielewicz (Newport, N.H.), Capt. Jimmy Lee Jenkins (Marietta, Ga.), Capt. Mark
Elster (Shelby, Tenn.), Capt. Edward Parent, Jr. (Hamburg, Penn.), Capt. Banks
Wilkinson (Forest City, Ark.), Capt. Kevin McGuire (Langhome, Pa.), 1st Lt.
Edward Hoyle III (Marshfield, Mass.), Tech. Sgt. Peter Osterfeld (Port
Townsend, Wash.), Tech. Sgt. David Young (Carmel, Ind.), Staff Sgt. Terrence
Miyoshi (Honolulu, Hawaii), Staff Sgt. Monte Bissett (Lacey, Wash.), Senior
Airman Wilbert Brown III (Galveston, Texas) and Airman 1st Class George Anthony
Moreland (Lakenheath Village, England).
Following remarks from leadership, McChord Field
Honor Guard members presented a wreath for the memorial site and played
"Taps." The ceremony ended with a moment of silence.
Many of the individuals who were stationed at
then-McChord Air Force Base came to pay their respect and stayed after the
ceremony to reflect on the tragic day.
"It's still sad," said Scott Vipond, a
captain at the time. "They were all young and I knew all 13 of them. I was
really close to Dave and Jimmy Lee, but we were all a close-knit family."
Some who couldn't make the ceremony still remember
the day and the Airmen who were involved.
"At the (pre-flight) briefing everyone was very
relaxed and jovial," said retired Col. Jeff Cain, who was training that
Cain was the operations officer of the 8th AS then
and flew one of the four aircraft that participated in the air refueling
training that tragic day.
"The formation consisted of aircraft number one
and number two from the 36th AS, I flew number three for the 8th AS and number
four was manned by the 4th AS," he said.
Sielewicz, who was the lead, briefed that the
formation could rejoin after air fueling was completed by using station-keeping
equipment (function to electronically identify surrounding aircraft) or visual
reference, he explained.
"On the AR (air refueling) track it was a
rather dark night, no moon, above an overcast, but smooth and clear
visibility," Cain said.
The refueling portion began and after receiving a
signal from aircraft number two, Cain proceeded to move forward for his turn.
"As I was about a half-mile from the tanker [air
refueling aircraft], a bright light illuminated the cockpit and I thought it
was my navigator fooling with his map light," he continued. "The
navigator sat directly behind the AC (aircraft commander) seat, and as I turned
to my left to tell him to knock it off, I saw a huge fireball and pieces of
burning debris coming out of this explosion.
"I immediately turned around to look at the
tanker to make sure I wasn't going to hit him. Once I got my bearings, I asked
number four where he was and if he had a visual on me. He assured me that he
did and then we briefly discussed what we thought had happened. After a few
interplane radio calls to number one and two, we sadly accepted what
Looking back after 20 years, Cain said that he will
never forget the Airmen involved and the events that happened that tragic
"These crew members were professional,
enthusiastic and loved to fly," he said. "Serving their country was
an honor; flying the C-141 was a privilege. They had seen the Berlin Wall come
down, the people of Kuwait get liberated and were always ready for the next
tasking. I have missed them ever since and will always try to make a difference
to honor their sacrifice. They may be gone, but they will never be forgotten."
The C-141s were conducting a refueling training
exercise when they collided at approximately 8 p.m. Eleven of the victims were
assigned to the 36th Airlift Squadron (now part of Pacific Air Forces), one was
attached to the 8th AS and one to the 4th AS.