721 APS Airmen honor fallen comrades

Story and photos by
Airman 1st Class Joshua Magbanua 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
721st Aerial Port Squadron Airmen conduct a memorial run May 19 on Ramstein. The event is part of a tradition in the aerial port career field in which aerial port squadrons conduct memorial runs to honor their fallen colleagues.

Airmen of the 721st Aerial Port Squadron conducted an annual memorial run May 19 on Ramstein.

The run honors Airmen in the aerial port career field who lost their lives within the past year in incidents across the Air Force.

“We’re showing them that we are a family,” said Tech. Sgt. Michael Alessandrini, 721 APS air transportation standard evaluation program evaluator. “It’s not just a job. This is what we do day in and day out but we’re people and we put family first,” Alessandrini continued.

The memorial run began with a ceremony honoring Master Sgts. William Russ and Kelly Bartholomew, Staff Sgt. Jonathan Turner, and Airman 1st Class Russell De Leon.

While the runners were met with inclement weather, Alessandrini said it only added to the emotions of the event.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s raining or shining, we’re going to do this to respect our port dawgs,” Alessandrini said, using a popular nickname for aerial port Airmen. “It’s a somber event because we’re remembering our fallen friends. It just adds that effect to it when it rains.”

Alessandrini said these traditions illustrate the camaraderie between aerial port Airmen, even if they are from different bases. The small size of their career field helps magnify the sense of community aerial port Airmen have, he said.

“There’s not that many of us,” said Alessandrini. “Odds are that somebody at your base knows one of the people that passed away because we’re such a small career field. We’ve always been a close-knit bunch.”

721st Aerial Port Squadron Airmen bow their heads in prayer as they prepare for a memorial run May 19 on Ramstein. The Airmen honored four of their colleagues from different bases who lost their lives over the past year.
Name tapes of fallen aerial port Airmen are attached to a banner during a memorial ceremony May 19 on Ramstein.
A memorial run participant wears a commemorative t-shirt bearing the names of fallen aerial port Airmen May 19 on Ramstein.