Charlie Fire Team: Honoring the past with the future
By Master Sgt. Matthew Wilson, 509th Security Forces Squadron
/ Published June 15, 2018
WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- On June 11, members of the 509th Security Forces Squadron and former 352nd Missile Security Squadron at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, honored six fallen Airmen on the 36th anniversary of the UH-1F Iroquois crash in rural Missouri.
The group, affectionately remembered as Charlie Fire Team, included Staff Sgt. Richard Bohling, Sgt. Thomas “Tiny” Meredith, Senior Airman David Jones and Senior Airman Marion Pace. On that day 36 years ago, they prepared for a routine missile escort, or what they called a “business trip,” just like any other. Their job was to link up with Capt. Richard Conrardy and 2nd Lt. James Hebert, two pilots from Detachment 9 of the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, and provide aerial over-watch aboard one of four UH-1 Iroquois Helicopters, from Whiteman AFB.
They were responsible for communicating potential threats to ground forces in order to defend the weapon system against possible attacks. According to an Air Force report, while on a mission from Whiteman to a launch facility near Passaic, Missouri, the helicopter’s main rotor blade dipped out of position and struck the tail of the aircraft, causing the aircraft to break apart. All six Airmen died.
Nearly four decades later, their memories are still honored through annual wreath laying ceremonies. At this year’s event, family, friends and fellow Airmen shared heartfelt stories, including how Sgt. “Tiny” Meredith was able to fit his 6-foot-8-inch frame into the confines of the Peace Keeper vehicles and helicopters in which he spent the majority of his time. Pictures and photo albums from the more than 40 family members and friends in attendance were also on display.
Today, Charlie Fire Team’s legacy lives on within Air Force Global Strike Command, the wing and the unit. Because Charlie Fire Team represented the best of the best, it was a tradition for the most tactically proficient security forces teams to have their picture taken in front of the UH-1 Iroquois at Peace Memorial Park, the same one currently on display at the Oscar One facility. Those pictures are displayed around the security forces building. Furthermore, thanks to the efforts of retired security forces Col. Lynden Skinner, the top security forces team at the annual Global Strike Challenge is awarded the Charlie Fire Team Trophy. Recently, Lt. Col. Justin Secrest, the 509th Security Forces Squadron Commander, placed a memorial plaque in the squadron so all members would know of the giants whose shoulders they stand upon.
Additionally, each member who has served within the unit receives a squadron lithograph which outlines the history of the wing and unit’s mission. It specifically honors Charlie Fire Team with the illustration of four security forces shields surrounding a UH-1 Iroquois helicopter flying before the U.S. flag and the Minuteman-II missiles.