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Remembering RAIDR21

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Sarah Bergstein
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
The 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, currently deployed to Andersen from Minot AFB, N.D., participated in Guam's 68th Liberation Day celebration July 21 by kicking off the annual parade with a B-52 flyover.

As Americans celebrated the anniversary of the day in 1944 when U.S. forces liberated the island from Japanese occupation, members of the 69th EBS paused to remember their own--the six Airmen of "Raider 21" who died when their B-52 crashed July 21, 2008.

"Many members of our squadron were just entering the active duty Air Force when Raider 21 crashed in 2008," said Lt. Col. Doug Gosney, 69th EBS commander. "However, several squadron personnel knew the Raider 21 crew well and had flown with them. One individual even instructed two of the crew members when they were students in training. It was an emotional memorial, especially for those that personally knew the crew of Raider 21."

The Raider 21 aircrew was deployed to Andersen in a combined deployment from both the 20th EBS and 96th EBS, Barksdale AFB, La., in support of the U.S. Pacific Command's Continuous Bomber Presence.

The 69th EBS is currently here continuing to support that same presence.

"This is a constant reminder to all of us to be vigilant in our training," said Capt. Mike Stepan, 69th EBS instructor electronic warfare officer. "I feel such a sense of pride that I was able to serve with these guys and continue serving for them."

A monument was constructed at Adelup Point in 2009 to honor the aircrew lost off the coast of Guam during a routine mission in support of the 2008 Liberation Day parade. Captain Stepan was deployed to Guam with the 96th EBS in 2009 and attended the memorial dedication ceremony, where he met the family members of the Raider 21 crew.

"Their families and friends are also in our thoughts and prayers. We'll continue honoring them this July 21 and beyond," he said.

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; Col. George Martin, 36th Medical Group deputy commander, chief of aerospace medicine and flight doctor for the deployed members; Maj. Christopher Cooper, 96th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron aircraft commander; Maj. Brent Williams, 96th EBS radar navigator; Capt. Michael Dodson, 20th EBS copilot; 1st Lt. Robert Gerren, 20th EBS electronic warfare officer, and 1st Lt. Joshua Shepherd, 20th EBS navigator.

"These men died doing what they love--serving their country," said Maj. Joe Little, 36th Operations Support Squadron director of operations, who, along with others that knew them, have some type of memorial each year for their friends and brothers in combat, no matter where in the world they're stationed.

"Four years later, it's still emotional," said Major Little. "This year was different, actually being on Guam. It was much more moving for me, but it also brought a sense of closure."
The 69th EBS lined up in formation before the memorial. The master of ceremonies began with a red flag roll call, to which RAIDR 21 did not reply.

"It makes you realize how small the bomber community really is," said Capt. Quincy Rhinehart, 69th EBS radar navigator. "You didn't have to know the crew personally to be affected by what happened."

Captain Rhinehart read the poem, "High Flight," by John Gillespie Magee Jr. while Colonel Gosney placed flowers at the base of the memorial. A final salute was rendered from all members of the squadron.

"It was a really sobering ceremony," said 1st Lt. Rudy Monteagut, 69th EBS copilot. "I didn't know the crew personally, but seeing how emotional my squad members were made it very real for me."

The memorial serves as a reminder of the bravery and sacrifices of American servicemembers and honors those Airmen who were fulfilling their duties in support of their country, as did those in defense of their nation in the first Liberation Day of 1944.

"At our Friday night roll call, we gave them a salute--the one from the myth of Icarus," said Captain Rhinehart. "A toast," he said. "To the men who dare to fly too close to the sun."

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