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"No Survivors" - Remembering Eagle Flight - Annual Memorial on BlackFive

Posted By Blackfive • [April 13, 2012]

    "They came to save us, and to give us dignity. Their sacrifice will remain in the minds of our children for the rest of their lives. We will teach their names to our children, and keep their names in our books of history as heroes who gave their lives for freedom." - Kurd Sheik Ahmet at the April 17th, 1994 memorial service in Zakhu, Iraq.

In April, 1991, as part of U.N. Resolution 688, the National Command Authority commanded the US Armed Forces to conduct Operation Provide Comfort.  On the 8th of April 1991, the 1st Battalion (FWD) of the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) from Bad Tolz, Germany, deployed to conduct humanitarian relief operations for over a half million Kurdish refugees.  Soon the 2nd and 3rd Battalions arrived from the states.

From the 10th Group's history page (emphasis is mine):

...Operation PROVIDE COMFORT was one of the largest relief operations in history. During the critical first three weeks, the 10th Special Forces Group directed and executed the overall ground relief and security efforts. In the words of General Galvin, the CINCEUR "...10th Special Forces Group saved half a million Kurds from extinction."

The conditions in the refugee camps shocked the world. Before 10th Group arrived, an average of 450 refugees perished daily, with 70 percent being children. In two weeks time the rate was approximately 15-­20 per day and of these, only 28 percent were children. 10th Group had made the difference.

The basic operation was divided into three phases. Phase one provided immediate emergency relief with food, water and shelter. The intent was to make an accurate assessment of the situation and to organize Kurdish leadership. Phase two provided basic services. The ODA and ODB detachments performed many tasks and missions: pipe water from the mountains, organize food distribution and camp sanitation, service drop zones and landing zones, and coordinate with the multi­national relief organizations. Additionally, they assisted in rendering medical treatment for the refugees. Phase three prepared and moved the refugees from their mountain camps into resettlement camps in Iraq or straight back to their own homes. Way­stations built by 10th SFG(A), provided food, water and fuel, and limited medical help enroute...

The mission was a tough one - to provide humanitarian aid to over one million Kurdish Refugees in northern Iraq. The mission began with airdrops (food, clothing, tents, blankets, medicine) and soon launched missions taking supplies directly to the Kurds.

Providecomfortblackhawkvillage

A UH-60A Black Hawk (Blackhawk) helicopter flies over a small village in the Kurdish occupied security zone in northern Iraq. The helicopters and the crews from C Company 6/159th Aviation Regiment, Geibelstadt, Germany, are deployed to Diyarbakir, Turkey, in support of the operation Provide Comfort. (DoD photo by: SSGT. THEODORE J. KONIARES Date Shot: 1993-11-17).

To further stop Saddam from killing the Kurds, a northern No-Fly Zone was placed north of the 36th parallel. Any Iraqi aircraft would be shot down in the No-Fly Zone.

Iraq_no_fly_zones Photo from CIA Factbook

The No-Fly Zone was patrolled and kept "clean" by the USAF with fighters (F-15s) being supported by command and control aircraft (AWACS).

General John Shalikashvili, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had this to say about the hard work of the Provide Comfort Soldiers and Airmen:

For over 1,000 days, the pilots and crews assigned to Operation Provide Comfort flew mission after mission, totalling over 50,000 hours...

On April 14th, 1994, two Blackhawk helicopters were ready for take-off from Diyarbakir, Turkey. COL Jerry Thompson - one of the most respected officers and commanders in Special Forces - was changing command (or co-command as "command" of Provide Comfort was shared with Turkey). He decided to show his replacement, COL Mulhern, the lay of the land. At 0730, COL Thompson assembled 26 people that comprised important (command group) roles for the mission. He included French, British, and Turkish commanders and liaisons, and also brought along Kurdish para-military personnel and linguists.

The two Blackhawks were designated Eagle-1 and Eagle-2. Their first destination was Irbil, Iraq, but they would have to make a stop in Zakhu, Iraq (where the military part of Provide Comfort operated). There were plans to visit several other areas as well.

At 8:22AM, Eagle Flight departed Diyarbakir. They were headed East-Southeast for a "gate" into the No-Fly Zone. Per Standard Operating Procedure, the command group was split between Eagle-1 and Eagle-2 to ensure continuity of command if one helicopter went down.

At 9:21AM, Eagle Flight called the AWACS (callsign "Cougar"). They requested and were granted permission to enter the "gate" into the the No-Fly Zone.

At 9:24AM, Eagle Flight lands at Zakhu, Iraq.

At 9:35AM, two USAF F-15 fighters launched from Incirlik, Turkey. They were designated Tiger-1 and Tiger-2. Tiger-1 was the lead fighter with Tiger-2 as the wingman. Tiger Flight was headed to patrol the No-Fly Zone.

At 9:54AM, Eagle Flight calls the AWACS to report departure from Zakhu, Iraq, with a destination of Irbil, Iraq.

At 10:12AM, Eagle Flight enters mountainous terrain. It's Identification Friend or Foe system (IFF) failed.

At 10:20AM Tiger Flight passes through "gate" into No-Fly Zone.

At 10:22AM Tiger Flight picks up radar contact at forty nautical miles. No IFF reading occurs. Tiger-1 reports, "Cougar, picked up helicopter tracking northwest bound." AWACS says the area should be "clean".

At 10:25 AWACS responds that there are "hits there" in the No-Fly Zone - confirming Tiger Flight's radar contact.

Tiger Flight makes visual contact with Eagle Flight at five nautical miles.

At 10:28 Tiger-1 conducts a visual identification (VID) pass of the helicopters. "Cougar, tally 2 HINDS."

HINDS are Soviet Helicopters used by the Iraqi Armed Forces.

AWACS replied, "Copy two HINDS".

Tiger-1 then instructed Tiger-2 to make a VID pass.

Thirty seconds later Tiger-2 confirms, "Tally 2."

Tiger-1 to Tiger-2, "Arm hot."

At 10:30AM on April 14, 1994, Tiger-1 fired an AIM 120 (medium range air-to-air missle) at Eagle-2. Tiger-2 fired an AIM 9 (Sidewinder air-to-air missle) at Eagle-1.

The missles hit Eagle Flight with deadly accuracy. Tiger-1 confirmed the hits to AWACS, "Splash two HINDS."

There were no survivors...

Tomorrow is the anniversary of this horrible accident.  In memoriam:

    US Military:
    SSG Paul Barclay (SF Commo NCO)
    SPC Cornelius A. Bass (Eagle-1 Door Gunner)
    SPC Jeffrey C. Colbert (Eagle-1 Crew Chief)
    SPC Mark A. Ellner (Eagle-2 Door Gunner)
    CW2 John W. Garrett, Jr. (Eagle-1 Pilot)
    CW2 Michael A. Hall (Eagle-2 Pilot Command)
    SFC Benjamin T. Hodge (Linguist)
    CPT Patrick M. McKenna (Eagle-1 Pilot Command)
    WO1 Erik S. Mounsey (Eagle-2 Pilot)
    COL Richard A. Mulhern (Incoming Co-Commander)
    1LT Laurie A. Piper (USAF, Intel Officer)
    SGT Michael S. Robinson (Eagle-2 Crew Chief)
    SSG Ricky L. Robinson (SF Medic)
    Ms. Barbara L. Schell (State Dept. Political Advisor)
    COL Jerald L. Thompson (Outgoing Co-Commander)

    British Military:
    MAJ Harry Shapland (Security/Intel Duty Officer)
    LTC Jonathan C. Swann (Senior UK Officer)

    French Military:
    LTC Guy Demetz (Senior French Officer)

    Turkish Army:
    COL Hikmet Alp (Co-Commander)
    LT Ceyhun Civas (Laison Officer)
    LT Barlas Gultepe (Liason Officer)

    Kurdish Partisans:
    Abdulsatur Arab
    Ghandi Hussein
    Bader Mikho
    Ahmad Mohammed
    Salid Said (Linguist)

Please take a minute to pray for their families today and remember that their hard work and sacrifices led to a flourishing Kurdish enclave - a place they would be very, very proud of today.  I don't think in our wildest dreams we ever thought that would have been possible.

Thompson
A memorial was constructed in Germany thanks to many contributors.  The Eagle Flight memeorial has been moved to Fort Rucker and was dedicated on April 14, 2007.  More information, lots of photos and details, can be found at the Eagle Flight Detachment Memorial Monument Friends web site.

And Erik Mournsey's cousin, Ian Bairnson (a member of the Alan Parson's Project), wrote this song, "Brother Up In Heaven", for Erik:

Brother Up in Heaven
by Ian Bairnson

a boy flies for freedom
but dies for the peace
in the clouds, he waits for an answer
but there's no release

it's strange here without you
and it's so hard to see
so brother up in heaven
please wait up for me

oh brother up in heaven
please wait up for me

i still see his shadow
his laugh lingers on
when i dream, we're all back together
when i wake, he's gone

it's strange here without you
this was not meant to be
so brother up in heaven
please wait up for me

and though we try to change the world
a flower when it's cut will surely die

so why do men with so much hate
destroy what they cannot create
while we all stand by

we look back in anger
but you helped us to see
so brother up in heaven
please wait up for me

oh brother up in heaven
please wait up for me


[Blackfive Note: This is an annual repost.  I am posting some of the Comments from prior years' posts below.]

Mores Mekho said...

My father was one of 26 brave men and women that was in the helicopters that day.

Just before he went to work he kissed me and my brother and sisters just like any other day. He was truely a person of great dignity and one that was admired by his friends and family. This amazing person lived a great live as a Chealdean Catholic and he was not Kurdish. (R.I.P) NADER MEKHO

You will always be loved, we miss you dad.


I was stationed in Aviano, Italy with SETAF at the time of this tragedy. In fact, my unit flew the initial Provide Comfort missions delivering countless tons of food via CH47 in 91/92. Some of your guys may have cleared the LZs for us.

The day following this horrific event, I was standing in line at the BX behind two F-16 pilots. One said to the other, "Air Force- 2, Army- 0," and they chuckled.

Eventhough I was in uniform (at the time an E-6),I introduced myself to the officers and said that I thought that their sense of humor "sucked, and find myself suddenly embarrassed to be even remotely associated with the USAF and not because of the actions of those in Turkey, but because of the two officers and gentlemen standing in front of me." I dropped what I had been planning on buying and walked out of the store, fully expecting to be chased down and brought up on charges, didn't happen.

I remember and will say a prayer for all involved.


I was involved there as well, although I departed after a few months. Pretty early in the game. I remember reading those events.


I remember this well. A very unfortunate tragedy - many great folks were lost.


I knew SFC Ben Hodge and had attended Army schools and training events with him. I currently work in Hodge Hall, named for him, in Darmstadt, GM. I am sorry to say that daily mission kept from even recognizing that this was the 10 year anniversary. I am now working on organizing a brief memorial.
These men served so that others could be free.


Thanks, Chief!


i'm a civilian, i've never been in the military. but this just brought tears to my eyes. thank you for this post, Blackfive. it's hard to read about what our troops go through every day. May God bless all of you. We should never take these things for granted.


I was one of the Air Force CSAR pilots that recovered all 26 bodies from the crash sites. It was a sad day indeed. However, it was an honor to recover the fallen soldiers and return their remains to Diyarbakir that day. I am now in the Army National Guard attending the Aviation Warrent Officer Advanced Course. Next week I will brief my class on the trajedy. My goal is to help prevent this from happening again and to remember those lost in the service to our country.


I was stationed as a Air Force SP at Pirinclik AS, Turkey during this horrific event (Dec. 1993 - Dec 1994). To this day I can remember I was sitting at one of the radar entry control gates when I heard the news. I thought to myself - "we just spent time together at the "Club" the night before during one of our weekly good meals. No one could speak - we didn't know at the time who was onboard. All I can remember is everything being in a uproar and panic.
I saw several Eagle Flight teams come and go on their rotations. I also spent time with all of you who came to Pirinclik at the "Club". It was an honor to work with each an every one of our fallen comrades.
Please, don't hold a grudge against all Air Force personnel - as military members we all know - there are good ones and there are bad ones. Pirinclik was never the same, but we had to learn to hold our memories close to our hearts. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of "our" Eagle Flight team. May we always remember what each and every one of them stood for!!!!


While discussing a recent MEDIVAC with my platoon medic, I thought about SGT Robinson....I went to PLDC (Primary Leadership Development Course) with him in Feb of 1994 and remember how passionate he was about his job and being a Crew Chief. I am currently stationed in Mosul, Iraq close to where the tragedy happened. I haven't thought about him in a long time, but I do believe that the Lord tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me of those who have served before us and paid the ultimate price. The Robinson family is in my prayers and I thank you for your sacrifice and that I had the honor of spending time with SGT Robinson.

Very Respectfully,

Nathan Brookshire
2LT, MP
Platoon Leader
Mosul, Iraq


I was in SFC Hodge's unit in Germany when this happened. The first thing we thought when we heard the news was his wife and kids. I recall our batallion being extremely angry when we heard of the incident. It made us more angry when we found out it was friendly fire.
GOD BLESS SERGEANT HODGES SOUL, AND SENDING HIM A BUDDY 'HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAH'!!!!

SPC Fernando Ruiz
US Army (disabled vet)


I was stationed at Pirinclik Air Station (August 94 to August 95 so I just missed the incident but it got talked about often) as an Air Force SP, worked in the Armory, and would often issue weapons and ammo to Eagle Flight personnel before their daily departures. The sacrifices that were made and the personnel involved in this tragedy will not be forgotten.


Wow! I just found this website and am totally amazed! Col Richard A. Mulhern was my cousin. I've tried to search for information about this senseless tragedy for years, but it seemed like the answers would never be revealed. Thank you all for remembering my cousin and all the other brave souls who were lost this day. God Bless them all and those of us left to bear their tragic loss.

Every once in a while I go online and search for any information I can find on this incident. For whatever reason, tonight I came upon this website. Reading all of these messages brought me to tears. Not because I am brought back to that day on April 14th, but because over a decade later the 26 heroes we lost are still being saluted. Colonel Rich Mulhern was my dad, and I just want to than you all for keeping his memory alive.

To Bill Wieber:
I was honestly shocked when I came across your posted message! I don’t believe we have ever had the pleasure of meeting (forgive me if we did, I was fairly young when my dad was killed). I am truly touched that you have made such an effort to find answers to the questions that we all continue to have. The time you have spent searching and even posting your message is appreciated more than words can express. Thank you!


Although, it is about 3 years too late. I am glad I came across this post in your Blog. Two members of my team were killed. I had the sad duty of participating in the recovery operation. I still think about Ricky and Paul often. Thanks for taking the time to remember them. Mike


This is extremely emotional, another Anniversary will yet arrive. This was a love story and a family story in which I was briefly intertwined, bittersweet memories flow. I attended the wedding of Erik and Kaye in 1987. I'll never forget the outrageous
and comedic moment that broke the sweetness of the ceremony. The sole of the groom's shoes read TOP GUN. I briefly dated his brother John. I felt sad that I refused to remain in touch anymore. I was shocked to find in picking up the newspaper and seeing Erik's photo! What a shame it had to end this way. The circumstances were devastating, since John told me something that was eerily prophetic, like an omen, that being a military wife is a wrenching daily process, the constant worry of loss.... I remember John's sense of humor and warmth.. it gave me a laugh.. The entire family were a joyous and jolly bunch.
The Cock n Bull Pub on Lincoln Blvd. was once the 2 Drops 'o' Scotch bar, which was where I met John 1986 and was a raucous stomping ground..
John, Kaye, Erik,, I have never stopped thinking of you since I went my seperate ways.. Kaye has a beautiful girl with daddy's eyes and my heart stings when I hear Leather and Lace by Stevie Nicks.
All my Love to the Mounsey family, and prayers for those who serve and fly.

Catherine


Always remember. I am a former AWACS senior director, the same position Capt. Wang was sitting on 14 April, 1994. I am now a civilian. You should all know the legacy of these 27 lives on at Tinker AFB. Not a single AWACS crewmember steps foot on an aircraft before learning all about this tragedy and what should have happened instead.


I check this blog often to see new posts. 3 of my team mates got bumped while the rotors were turning. 2 stayed on board and got killed by our Air Force. F**k the Air Force. It disgusts me that my brothers are a "Teaching Point".


I didn't realize so many cared about the shoot down this many years later. Thanks to all.


I to have just come across this blog. Harry Shapland was my platoon commander in the Irish Guards and he was without a doubt the best officer I ever had the pleasure of serving under. He was reported as a General in the making in the British press and I feel that it was such a waste of not only such a promising military career but also of a human life that meant so much more to his family, friends and colleagues alike. But once again due to the cowboy antics of the USAF (who killed more British soldiers in the first Gulf war than the Iraqis did) we buried a very highly respected and much liked Irish Guards officer in London in 1994 with full military honours, when the fact is we should have been welcoming him back at the end of his tour. I took part in his fureral and to see grown men who ultimately are paid a wage to kill in war cry like children was gut wrenching. This is one person I personally will never forget and I know that Irish Guards members past and present feel the same and hold this man in such high regard that even the thought of working with the USAF makes their skin crawl. "Quis Seperabit"


I am very aware of this incident. I spent 3 and half years in the unit that this happened too. Now a days they are called B co 3/158 "Wareagles". The company patch lists the two tail numbers on it. Our brothers are gone, but not forgotten.


My son, Spc Mark A. (Tony) Ellner was killed in this incident. I also just ran across this site. Mark was the door gunner on the lead helicopter Eagle-1. Cornelius Bass was the door gunner one Eagle-2. I realize the insignias that were presented at the time of the memorial services show them reversed but it was incorrect.

Thank you for expressing your thoughts and remembrances and prayers for all the family members of Eagle Flight. We have needed every one. It has been exactly 13 1/2 years ago today. The friends of Eagle Flight have moved the Memorial Monument from Giebelstadt, Germany to Ft. Rucker, Alabama. It was rebuilt and rededicated this year on the anniversary of the shootdown. If you're in the area, stop in and see it - - it's beautiful.


I will always miss my son, Tony. Everyday. It is amazing how many lives were touched by this shoot down. I regret not being there for my son until he was older. I can't go back.But I'll see him again.
God bless,
A remembering Dad.

Posted by: MJ Ellner | November 06, 2007 at 02:28 PM


Didn't know you took part in those Ops, BF.

It genuinely sucked up there. I was Marine ANGLICO, leading a team attached to 3/325 out of Vicenza, IT (They're 173rd ABCT now, right?) near Dohuk.

I got hit on May 24 when a soldier I was moving with tripped a mine - PFC Lars Chew. He didn't make it out of Iraq, perishing at the Brit field hospital at Sirsenk Airfield. Actually had the fortunate chance to meet his brother (former 82nd) and family years later - great folks from Colorado, and we're still loosely in touch today.

Rest in peace, PFC Chew... Even after suffering tremendous wounds, you were one helluva brave man up on that mountain ridge.


Amen, Blackfive, amen...

Prayers also for Tiger-One and Tiger-Two, who must have gone through some pretty rough times when they realized what had happened...


I must echo all the previous posters and say that we must never forget the 26 innocent lives lost 11 years ago.
Both last year & this year I find myself searching for answers as to how this could happen.
I did find a 50 page transcript of a seminar by West Point professor LTC Scott Snook at http://www.pirp.harvard.edu/pubs_pdf/snook%5Csnook-i01-1.pdf
Thanks Blackfive for reminding us of the loss of your friends and countrymen!


As soon as I started reading, I remembered the post from last year. Took me all day to get back here... every time I thought I'd come post a comment, I'd start crying. It's a terrible terrible thing - and I hope that something was learned from it, so this never happens again. My prayers go out to the families and friends who remember and wonder why...


I can still touch the rage of the coverup that followed this shootdown. Army pilots took the fall, and they followed every rule by the book. It was one of the most shameful episodes of the time.


I have privates in my platton who know the differences between a Blackhawk and a Hind, I will never understand how those pilots ccould have been so wrong


The old style of materials was a photographic slide kit (thus requiring a slide projector). Producing (and reproducing) these slides is time-consuming and expensive, resulting in everyone one using the same couple of images for training. Further, because recognition training wasn't "sexy", it tended to be lightly regarded by both trainers and pilots/trainees.

Using newer technology, recognition materials moved more into video/computer-based media--much cheaper and thus incorporating more images, realistic movement, and even activity simulations. Plus, you could now run the recognition training on a laptop (or a computer network). This took money, which would never have been allocated without the tragic results discussed in this post.


I worked on one of those aircraft recognition training software programs. It was called Joint Visual Identification (JVID). As a vet and an airplane nut, it was one of the most fun jobs I ever had, but it was also one of the most important. We never forgot the reason why we were developing the software.

I used to work that mission as a platoon leader in C 6-159 AVN. I knew all those guys on the flight crews. I owed CPT McKenna $20 which I never got to repay. I had been on the previous rotation, in Dec-Feb , and I remember attending an Operation Provide Comfort briefing at Incerlik AFB. One of our constant gripes with the AF was that the fighter jocks were constantly flying below their minimum altitude so that they could have fun in the mountain valleys of N Iraq. There were several instances where they would underfly our Blackhawks. The reaction from the AF General was something akin to "well, you know, they're fighter jocks, so if I tell 'em to stay above 8,000 ft and they're coming down to 7,000, they're still doing pretty good." Reprehensible, but it pretty much summed up the AF mindset at that place and time. He, and the officers directly involved, paid for that attitude, although not dearly enough if you ask me. I haven't had a nice thing to say about the Air Force since that time.


The regurgitation of the Black Hawk shoot down as addressed by the military and DOD is both tiring and inaccurate. The facts to this incident is hidden within the 23 volumes of disconnected data of public but very sensitive testimonies of those directly involved in this alleged Friendly Fire. This was a politically prosecution driven by senior Department of Defense leadership with a perceived need to hold no one accountable, a conviction would mean an appeal, an appeal would require the Article 32 be challenged for truth through fact finding, something the DOD found to horrible to contemplate since it would involve the rule of law as prescribed under the UN and NATO. The UCMJ was only technically complied with, unheard of in a case of this magnitude. It was manipulated by lawyers, judge advocates, and commanders to achieve a predetermined outcome
by guarding and surrounding it with a wall that was less than truthful to protect the truth of their blow-back.


SGT Michael S. Robinson was my sisters husbands brother. He was a wonderful person that left behind a son and a very caring family. He is missed still today and will always be missed. His death tore through his family like a knife. The government tried to conceal what really happened and in the end sent his mother photos in the mail of his burnt corpse to verify that it was him. The death was a tragedy, but the way the government dealt with it was the real tradegy! His flag and his picture sit on my sisters dresser still today. As a soldier myself I look at that flag with great pride and my heart still hurts for him and his family.


GYSGT BRAD O'NEAL, LCPL WATTS AND MYSELF THEN PFC. BACCARIE WERE PART OF PROVIDE COMFORT. MY HEART AND PRAYERS AND ALSO SORROW GOES OUT TO ALL U.S. FORCES INJURED OR KILLED. YOU WILL ALL BE MISSED. CALL SIGN PACKERS FCT. WITH SECOND AIR NAVAL GUNFIRE LIAISON COMPANY. ATTACHED TO THE SPANISH.
SEMPER FIDELIS

ALWAYS FAITHFUL GOD, COUNTRY AND CORPS


"Comment below written by: huck

<...>

I got hit on May 24 when a soldier I was moving with tripped a mine - PFC Lars Chew. He didn't make it out of Iraq, perishing at the Brit field hospital at Sirsenk Airfield. Actually had the fortunate chance to meet his brother (former 82nd) and family years later - great folks from Colorado, and we're still loosely in touch today.

Rest in peace, PFC Chew... Even after suffering tremendous wounds, you were one helluva brave man up on that mountain ridge."

I was in that unit at the time. I would like very much to get in touch with you Huck.


SFC Benjamin T. Hodge was my best friend. He lived around the corner from me in Weiterstadt, Germany, and rode with me to work almost everyday. He was the PSG of the "Arabic" platoon of A Co., 165th MI Bn, based in Darmstadt, Germany. I was PSG of the "German/Slavic" platoon. Ben and I went to the field together, played raquetball together, ate together, smoked together, drank together, cried together, and took ass-chewings together. Ben volunteered for the OPC mission, only after consulting with his wife, Brenda, who had a medical condition that required Ben to be stationed within 50 miles of a military hospital. The last time I saw Ben, he was filling out some legal paperwork in the hallway of our orderly room. He said, "Hey, wanna play some raquetball later?" I replied, "Affirmative." He said, "Well, you'll have to pack your dufflebag, and come with me to the Big Sandy!" It was only then that I realized his volunteering had earned him the privilege of serving his country and the Iraqi Kurds yet again. He was so unselfish in that way. Ben had previously served in (if I remember correctly) Grenada, Panama, and Desert Storm.
On the morning of April 14th, 1994, I was just a few weeks away from rotating back Stateside. I was the ASGM while the rest of the battalion was out for range density. I went to inspect the dining facility, and while standing at the door of the facility, my orderly ran up to me and said, "SFC Hodge was on the manifest!" I was shocked, stunned, and in total disbelief....we had all heard via AFN and AFRTS of the shootdown. The orderly had a transcript from somewhere in his hand, and there, in black and white, was Ben's name. I made commo with the battalion in the field, and all was confirmed. The unit returned to Darmstadt, as we awaited the return of Ben's (and the others') remains to Wiesbaden for graves registration personnel to ID. It took forever! In the meantime, everyone and their brothers decided to show up in Darmstadt - brass hats from everywhere - Deputy Chief of Staff for this and that, Undersecretary of this or that, press reporter this, photographer that - they didn't even know Ben or Brenda, or their 11-year old daughter. It was all about showing that the Army "cared" or something....at the same time, the Army was insisting that Brenda pay back the TDY advance that Ben had collected prior to his departure! (His wallet was later returned with his remains, and all of the money was still in it) The Army wouldn't even pay Brenda's way back to Arlington for the internment - the unit took up a collection to help her get there and back, since she still had to outprocess from Darmstadt. Good Casualty Assistance Personnel helped her with that, thank God.
I took a photo of Ben to a German photo studio in Darmstadt to have it enlarged for the memorial ceremony. The owner wouldn't allow me to pay for the work. He said, "This brave soldier gave his life for us all..."
Some of the bigwigs that showed up insisted on sitting next to and "comforting" Brenda during the memorial ceremony....what a sham!
Members of Ben's unit offered the sincerest of eulogies, poems, songs, and memories in front of that memorial of spit-polished jump boots, helmet, and M16 that day. 1SG Moore's roll call at the end of the ceremony was a BEE-ATCH....3 volleys of 7 x M16s later, and it was all over.
Those of us who really knew Ben remember him as being a simple, honest, loyal, and generous soldier, who genuinely cared about those troops in his charge. He loved his family - spoke of them always - and he loved his country! Truly a soldier for others to emulate.
In the aftermath, I followed the investigation and subsequent courts-martial of the fighter pilots and the AWACS crew members, in particular USAF Cpt Wang, and I was stunned by the outcome. Accidents don't happen, they are caused. SOMEONE was responsible, but only those 26 innocent victims paid for the awful chain of events that occured that day!
Ben - keep the courts waxed and warm. When the Big CO decides it's my time, I owe you a game of raquetball....and this time, I'll woop your ass!
Rick


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