Memorial honors fallen crew of Raider 21

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Arielle Vasquez
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
Airmen from the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, along with representatives from the Government of Guam, gathered July 21 in Adelup, Guam, to honor Airmen who lost their lives in a plane crash seven years ago.

As Guam made arrangements for the 71st Liberation Day celebration, which marks the day when U.S forces liberated the island from Japan in 1944, members from the 20th EBS, currently deployed here from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, paused to remember the six Airmen who died when their B-52 with call sign Raider 21 crashed 25 miles off the coast of Guam July 21, 2008.

"It's important that we remember our history," said Jeffrey Meyer 36th Wing historian. "We shouldn't forget Raider 21's crew and especially to remember the significance of what they were doing, which was a flyover to honor the past generations of Chamorro people and the Americans who liberated Guam. Now Liberation Day has two roles: one is remembering World War II, and the other is honoring the crew especially by those in the Air Force."

With the exception of the flight doctor, who was assigned to the 36th Medical Group, the other aircrew members were deployed to Andersen in support of the U.S. Pacific Command's Continuous Bomber Presence.

The crew took off from Andersen in a B-52 Stratofortress to perform a flyover at the 64th Guam Liberation Day parade before continuing on a training mission. However, five minutes before its scheduled show time, the aircraft crashed into the ocean killing all six Airmen. The accident investigation board concluded the accident was caused by a mechanical failure in one of the aircraft's wings.

"Our partnership with Guam is one that is unwavering, and 2015 is the eleventh year of the Continuous Bomber Presence on this incredibly important island," said Lt. Col. Dennis Cummings, 20th EBS commander. "When we originally mourned the loss of Raider 21, we mourned together, and now seven years later as we remember their loss, we remember together. Just like we celebrate Guam Liberation Day, so should we celebrate the lives of our lost crew."

A monument was constructed at the Ricardo J. Bordallo Governor's Complex in Adelup in 2009 to honor the aircrew. The memorial is in the form of a latte stone, a symbol of Guam's history, with the names of the Raider 21 aircrew etched on its surface: Maj. Christopher Cooper, 96th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron aircraft commander; Capt. Michael Dodson, 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron co-pilot; 1st Lt. Robert Gerren, 20th EBS electronic warfare officer; Col. (Dr.) George Martin, 36th Medical Group deputy commander, chief of aerospace medicine and flight doctor for the deployed members; 1st Lt. Joshua Shepherd, 20th EBS navigator; and Maj. Brent Williams, 96th EBS radar navigator.

"There's a lot of happiness on Liberation Day, but most importantly, we never forget the thousands of lives lost to liberate Guam and we remember the lives of the crew members of Raider 21," said Madeleine Bordallo, Guam's U.S. Congress representative.

The memorial serves as a reminder of the courage and sacrifices of those service members who dedicated their lives in carrying out their duties for their country.

"For the first couple of years, there was considerable grievance of the lost crew members, but as time goes by we work to get past the grieving and work toward celebrating the lives of the men who flew on that day," said Cummings. "The partnership between Andersen Air Force Base and the local community is just fantastic, and you can see this from the support we received from the governor and the congresswoman."