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Luke officials dedicate bridge to pilot killed in Iraq

The Litchfield overpass was dedicated to Maj. Troy L. Gilbert Jan. 25 at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. Major Gilbert was killed in Baghdad Nov. 27, 2006. After 14 months of construction, people at Luke AFB can get from one side of the base to the other without ever leaving a gate, now that base officials have opened the overpass crossing Litchfield Road. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Raheem Moore)

The Litchfield overpass was dedicated to Maj. Troy L. Gilbert Jan. 25 at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. Major Gilbert was killed in Baghdad Nov. 27, 2006. After 14 months of construction, people at Luke AFB can get from one side of the base to the other without ever leaving a gate, now that base officials have opened the overpass crossing Litchfield Road. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Raheem Moore)

Brig. Gen. Noel T. "Tom" Jones speaks to those in attendance at the grand opening of the Litchfield overpass dedicated to Maj. Troy L. Gilbert Jan. 25 at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. Major Gilbert was killed in Baghdad Nov. 27, 2006. After 14 months of construction, people at Luke AFB can get from one side of the base to the other without ever leaving a gate, now that base officials have opened the overpass crossing Litchfield Road. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Raheem Moore)

Brig. Gen. Noel T. "Tom" Jones speaks to those in attendance at the grand opening of the Litchfield overpass dedicated to Maj. Troy L. Gilbert Jan. 25 at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. Major Gilbert was killed in Baghdad Nov. 27, 2006. After 14 months of construction, people at Luke AFB can get from one side of the base to the other without ever leaving a gate, now that base officials have opened the overpass crossing Litchfield Road. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Raheem Moore)

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. (AFPN) -- More than 100 people attended the grand opening of a bridge Jan. 25 here and an overpass dedicated to a Luke Air Force Base pilot who was killed in Iraq the same month construction began on the overpass in November 2006.

During the grand opening, the overpass was dedicated to Maj. Troy L. Gilbert, who died Nov. 27, 2006, when his F-16 Fighting Falcon crashed while he was providing close-air support to special operations forces about 40 miles north of Baghdad. 

Luke AFB members can now cross from one side of the base to the other without ever leaving a gate, now that the overpass crossing Litchfield Road is open to traffic.

While at Luke AFB, Major Gilbert was the 56th Fighter Wing flying executive officer and flew with the 309th Fighter Squadron.

"May this bridge be a reminder to all who cross it, the strength of character which (Major Gilbert) embodied," said Lt. Col. Pete Davey, the 309th FS commander.

His wife, Ginger Gilbert, who was on-hand at the ceremony, said it was a fitting memorial to her late husband.

"I will never I drive under or over this bridge, without remembering my long and arduous journey after losing Troy," Mrs. Gilbert said, "for his incredible life of dedication and faith, or any of the numerous sacrifices that so many men and women around the globe have made for my freedom."

"Much like this overpass that will make life better for our Luke members, (Major Gilbert's) actions as a husband, father, son and Air Force officer were always undertaken with a desire to make things better," said Brig. Gen. Noel T. "Tom" Jones, the 56th Fighter Wing commander.

The project, which was contracted to the Tempe-based Sundt Construction Inc., cost $7.9 million, and will provide 7,000 people who work on Luke AFB and the more than 100,000 local military retirees easier access to both sides of the base, said Lt. Col. Anton Ramage, the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron commander.

"The tremendous teamwork between the 56th Fighter Wing, Air Education and Training Command and countless others made this concept a reality," Colonel Ramage said.

The need for the overpass was realized after the Sept. 11 attacks, when the east side of the base was wide open, while the west side contained several guarded entry control points. Once the attacks took place, the need arose to secure both halves of the installation. Since Luke AFB is split in half by Litchfield Road, people had to drive along Litchfield Road or Glendale Avenue to get to the other side of base.

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