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Remembering six Airmen who gave their lives

WHITEMAN AFB, MO. -- Whiteman lost six Airmen June 11, 1982, when their UH-1F Iroquois helicopter crashed in a rural area 30 miles south of Kansas City.

The two pilots from Detachment 9 of the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, and four security policemen, from the 352nd Missile Security Squadron, were providing security for a routine Air Force convoy transporting a weapons system from Whiteman to a launch silo near Passaic, Mo.

At the time, the UH-1F helicopter was one of four assigned to a military unit responsible for monitoring 50 of the Whiteman area missile silos.

The crew was: Capt. Richard Conrardy, 2nd Lt. James Hebert, Staff Sgt. Richard Bohling, Sgt. Thomas Meredith, Senior Airman Marion Pace and Senior Airman David Jones. "They worked in conjunction with the forces on the ground to defend the weapon system against any possible attack," said Master Sgt. James Osban, 509th Security Forces Squadron.

Part of their security convoy duties was to watch for any obstruction in the path of the convoy or for any security threats, Sergeant Osban said. "With them being in the air, they could encounter the adversary from any direction with speed and agility. They were also used to relay back information to the ground teams on construction, railroad crossings and any information that might slow or stop the convoy," he said.

According to an Air Force report, the crash was caused when the helicopter's main rotor blade dipped out of position and struck the tail of the aircraft, which then broke apart. Two years later, June 11, 1984, Whiteman dedicated a replica of the Bell UH-1F Iroquois at Peace Park Memorial located on Arnold Avenue near the 72nd Test and Evaluation Squadron building. Nearly 25 years have passed, but their sacrifice is not forgotten.

"The 509th SFS is extremely honored by the tremendous accomplishments made by our sister units here during the Cold War," said Lt. Col. Craig Allton, 509th SFS commander. "The legacy of the Charlie fireteam members who made the ultimate sacrifice, will forever live in the hearts and minds of every Niner defender, and will constantly serve as an inspiration for all of us to strive for greatness within our profession."

Furthermore, the courage of the six Airmen continues to inspire Airmen of today. "You cannot pass by the UH-1F static display or go through our museum without sensing what these six young Airmen stood for time and time again: integrity, service before self and excellence in all we do," Colonel Allton said. The memorial is just a small way for the community to pay respect to those who have made the sacrifice, Sergeant Osban said. "It is not just a static display of what used to be here, it is a display identifying the price that has been made by those before us; a price paid for the freedom that we enjoy every day."

That same freedom provides a means for the 509th SFS to commemorate the Airmen who died serving our country.

For example, a competition of four-man fireteams in honor of the Airmen was hosted each year, with the winning team having their photo taken in front of the helicopter.

Although the competition stopped when the base turned to aircraft instead of missiles, the competition was a way for the troops to show respect to those individuals who made the ultimate sacrifice while defending this country and our way of life, Sergeant Osban said.