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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

#MAFFS7 Memorial Service "Today, we remember and honor them.”

Remembering MAFFS 7: Memorial service held for crew killed in C-130 crash while fighting South Dakota wildfire

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson
North Carolina National Guard

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Airmen gathered here Tuesday, joined by Air Force Gen. Raymond Johns, USAF Air Mobility commander, who led support by military leaders and Family, friends service members and community leaders and supporters gathered here to remember four airmen of the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing who died when a modular airborne firefighting system equipped C-130 crashed July 1 while fighting a woodland fire in southwestern South Dakota.

North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue led the tributes during a memorial service for Lt. Col. Paul K. Mikeal of Mooresville, N.C., Maj. Joseph M. McCormick of Belmont, N.C., Maj. Ryan S. David of Boone, N.C., and Senior Master Sgt. Robert S. Cannon of Charlotte. Declaring that the men are heroes, she reminded the audience of about 1100 attendees, that included crews from other MAFFS partners in Cheyenne, Wyo., Colorado Springs, Colo., and Channel Islands, Calif., that they knew the risks and the rewards.

“They did it for their families. They did it for me, for you, and for the state and this nation,” Perdue said. Recognizing the valiant protection all of our service men and women have volunteered to provide, she continued saying, “Unfairly, they don't always come back. Today, we remember and honor them.”

The simple military ceremony featured airmen closest to the departed who shared their most memorable qualities. Lt Col. Jim Pearson said Mikeal “exuded excellence in everything he did.” Adding that Mikeal “inspired me to be a better aviator who lived life in the moment.”

Pearson related that his friend was passionate, with a calming spirit.

Maj. James Bodolosky said McCormick was the most honorable man, whose word was his life. Bodolosky explained that McCormick could find something positive in every situation. About his family, Bodolosky said McCormick was totally in love with his wife and thought she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. He added that he was in love with their newborn (one month old at the service) daughter long before he ever met her.

For Maj. Toshio Sameshima it was David’s positive positive spirit is what he said he’ll remember most. “You could always count on Ryan’s continuous smile and a laugh.”

With a more reverent tone he added that thinking of Major David’s character would “remind me of how I should live life - as if there were no bad days.”

All four individuals’ stories seemed connected by a common thread. They died doing what they loved. Following the service a second ceremony was held, with a military fly-over, to retire the aircraft, last known with the call sign “MAFFS-7.”

The crew and its aircraft, along with two other C-130s from the 145th AW and three dozen airmen, flew from Charlotte to Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., Saturday, June 30, to assist with fighting forest fires in the Rocky Mountain region. The crash, the first in MAFFS history, occurred around 6:30 p.m. near Edgemont, S.D., as the crew assisted with battling what is being called the White Draw fire. The cause of the crash is unknown and under investigation. Two other airmen remain hospitalized, recovering from injuries sustained in the crash.

 Gov. Perdue presented the widows of the fallen with flags that had flown over the state capitol, embracing each one as she greeted them.

MAFFS is a joint Department of Defense and U.S. Forest Service program designed to provide additional aerial firefighting resources when commercial and private air tankers are no longer able to meet the needs of the forest service.

 According to Forest Service records, the agency has been working with the North Carolina Air National Guard on fire suppression missions since the early 1970s.


Lt. Col. Paul Mikeal, 42, of Mooresville; Maj. Joseph McCormick, 36, of Belmont; Maj. Rayan David, 35, of Boone and Master Sgt. Robert Cannon, 36, of Charlotte

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****REMINDER**** Every fire has the ability to be catastrophic. The wildland fire management environment has profoundly changed. Growing numbers of communities, across the nation, are experiencing longer fire seasons; more frequent, bigger, and more severe, fires are a real threat. Be careful with all campfires and equipment.
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