Navy to name ship in honor of fallen Airman

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Tammie Adams
  • 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The Navy will rename one of its cargo ships April 8 after an Air Force combat controller from the 24th Special Tactics Squadron at Pope Air Force Base, N.C.

A 670-foot cargo ship in the Navy's Military Sealift Command, currently named Motor Vessel Merlin, will be renamed MV Tech. Sgt. John Chapman.

Sergeant Chapman was posthumously awarded an Air Force Cross, the second-highest honor given by the Air Force, in January 2003.

On March 4, 2002, during Operation Anaconda, Sergeant Chapman and his team were flown by helicopter into Afghanistan for a mission. The helicopter came under heavy machine gun fire and was directly hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. The grenade caused Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts, a Navy SEAL, to fall from the aircraft.

The helicopter was damaged and made an emergency landing about four miles away from where the Sailor fell.

After landing, Sergeant Chapman, who was part of a six-person team, called in an AC-130 gunship to provide close-air support and cover the stranded team before directing it to search for the missing person.

Sergeant Chapman called for, coordinated and controlled an evacuation helicopter, for limiting the team’s exposure to enemy fire, according to his award citation. He volunteered to rescue the missing team member without regard for his own life. He also engaged and killed two enemy soldiers and then continued advancing until engaging a dug-in machine gun nest.

Sergeant Chapman died while attempting to retrieve the body of the Navy SEAL.

The team leader credited Sergeant Chapman's aggressive and selfless actions with saving the lives of the entire team.

Four Seymour Johnson F-15E Strike Eagles will perform flyovers for the ceremony at Sunny Point Military Ocean Terminal in Southport, N.C.

One aircraft will be flown by Lt. Col. Mark Kelly, 333rd Fighter Squadron commander, who was there the day Sergeant Chapman was killed.

"The ship naming and the flyby exemplify the service bond created by men like John Chapman," Colonel Kelly said. "His actions transcend service lines."

At the time, the 335th Fighter Squadron was deployed supporting Operation Enduring Freedom and flew close-air support sorties over the Anaconda battlefield.

"The flyover is about a real Air Force hero, his sacrifice, his profession and his family," Colonel Kelly said. "It's a great personal honor and a small token of professional respect to recognize someone who did great things. It's an acknowledgement that some of the best Airmen in the world are on the ground."