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Airmen in C-130 crash identified, memorialized

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- The six Airmen assigned to the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing who died Oct. 2 when their C-130J Super Hercules crashed shortly after takeoff from Jalalabad Airfield, Afghanistan, were identified Oct. 3 by the Defense Department.

Killed in the crash were: Capt. Jordan Pierson, Capt. Jonathan Golden, Staff Sgt. Ryan Hammond, Senior Airman Quinn Johnson-Harris, Senior Airman Nathan Sartain and Airman 1st Class Kcey Ruiz. Pierson, Golden, Hammond and Johnson-Harris were deployed from the 317th Airlift Group at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, while Sartain and Ruiz were deployed from the 66th Security Forces Squadron at Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts.

The wing held a morning fallen comrade ceremony to honor the Airmen who made the ultimate sacrifice while doing their duty on the combat frontier and to allow their wingmen to pay their respects and mourn their loss.

After a brief prayer from a wing chaplain, the fallen Airmen’s squadron commanders were given the opportunity to address the gathered service members and offer their thoughts.

Lt. Col. Mitchell Spillers, the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron commander, offered condolences and a message to support those grieving, while reminding all to stay focused on the mission at hand to honor the sacrifices of the lost Airmen.

"We've taken a blow, but I'm proud of the way we've come together and supported each other. That must continue," Spillers said. "We're a tactical airlift unit that provides a lifeline to our forces (that no one) else can. Our mission will continue and we must carry on. Jordan, JJ, Ryan and JH all loved what we do, and would expect nothing less."

Maj. Met Berisha, the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron commander, echoed that the fallen Airmen loved what they did, and added they did their duty without regard for their own safety to deliver airpower capabilities here. He emphasized that Airmen must stay strong and continue the mission.

"We must mount up and get back to our posts, get back to our patrols, and get back in those aircraft and continue to do what we do best: project combat airpower for our nation," Berisha said. "We all know deep in our hearts, defenders, that's exactly what Sartain and Ruiz would have wanted."

Spillers later said his lost Airmen were some of his finest.

"This was one of my best crews; they had a positive impact on everyone around them,” Spillers said. “They served honorably and will forever be remembered as true tactical airlifters. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and we will do everything in our power to comfort them during this time of loss."

Berisha added that Sartain and Ruiz were the type of Airmen every commander sought to have on their team.

"I knew that without a doubt, that when our nation sent an aircraft into harm's way into an unsecured and dangerous Afghan airfield that the aircrew and aircraft were defended by the finest security forces Airmen our Air Force could possibly deliver," Berisha said. "Simply put, Ruiz and Sartain loved securing and projecting combat airpower for our nation. Their families not only raised fine American patriots, but they raised heroes that we all had the humble honor and phenomenal privilege to serve alongside with here."

Chief Master Sgt. Matt Grengs, the 455 AEW command chief, said Airmen across the wing grieve for the lost Airmen, but reminded everyone to pull together and continue the mission to honor their sacrifice.

"Today, we paused to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice as part of the Vulture Nation," he said. "We can only hope that the anguish of the families of these fallen heroes is tempered with the knowledge that their loved ones died doing what they loved for the nation they loved. They did not die in vain. It is our duty to finish the work of these fallen comrades."

Brig. Gen. Dave Julazadeh, the 455th AEW commander, said today was about honoring those whose lives were cut short and not forget their sacrifices.

"Today was a tough day for the Vulture Nation. We mourned with the families of Jordan, JJ, Ryan, JH, Nathan and Kcey," he said. "We owe it to these warriors to complete the mission for which they gave their lives, to protect and defend the freedoms upon which our great nation was built. We must never forget them or the sacrifices they made."