HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. (AFNS) --
The Hanscom Air Force Base community mourned the loss of a 66th Security Forces Squadron Airman who was killed in a non-combat related incident while serving overseas Sept. 12.
Senior Airman Jason “Khai” Phan was deployed to Kuwait with the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing’s SFS in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
Hanscom AFB personnel describe Phan as epitomizing the Air Force core values by emulating excellence in every task.
“He came to this country with big dreams and aspirations and truly worked to obtain all of his goals,” said Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Souheaver, a 66th SFS defender, who served directly with Phan. “He never stopped believing and pushing to achieve what a lot of people never attempt to do.”
Phan immigrated to Anaheim, California, from Vietnam when he was 18 years old to attend school as a computer scientist, and enlisted to help financially support his family. With English as his second language, he worked through elementary-school textbooks on his off time to improve his speech.
“The reason he wanted to improve so badly was so he could better do his job, but more importantly, so he could express himself to his friends and loved ones,” said Senior Airman Joel Bell, also a 66th SFS defender, and a good friend of Phan’s.
“I am broken by the loss of one of my closest friends, but I’m inspired by him to pursue a life that would make him proud,” Bell said.
Phan found an outlet in volunteering at the Hanscom AFB K-9 kennels, taking a break from what Bell described as Phan’s constant devotion to his job and from studying English to learn all there was to know about being a military working-dog handler.
According to the 66th SFS officials, Phan had recently been accepted to the 341st Training Squadron MWD Handler course at Joint Base Lackland, Texas, and was scheduled to attend following his deployment.
In a standing memorial, officials from the schoolhouse announced that Phan will be posthumously recognized as a graduate of the course. Additionally, two MWDs have been named in his honor; MWD Kkhai and MWD Pphan will go on to serve across the Department of Defense.
Typical spelling of MWD names bred through the DOD “Puppy Program” include a double first letter.
Maj. Shane Watts, 66th SFS commander, said defenders could be vulnerable around Phan without fear of judgement, and their weaknesses turned to strength through his calm reassurance.
“He was the type of Airman, defender, man and friend so profound that I felt an overwhelming obligation to live up to the expectations he deserved in a commander,” Watts said. “I’m still not sure if I’ve done that, but he’s left an impression on me that I will share with my family and commit to fulfilling in my lifetime.”
Chief Master Sgt. William Hebb, Hanscom AFB command chief, said “Phan was an absolutely amazing Airman and defender. He made an impact on everyone he knew through his can-do attitude and friendship.”
In an email to Hanscom AFB’s workforce, Col. Katrina Stephens, Hanscom AFB commander, called Phan “truly an extraordinary Airman,” and encouraged the community to be there for one another.
“Senior Airman Phan represented the best of the Air Force and understood what it meant to be a true wingman,” she said.