Ramstein Airmen support RAF Lakenheath during tragedy

by Staff Sgt. Kris Levasseur
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Approximately 10 Airmen and equipment from the 86th Airlift Wing, 435th Air Ground Operations Wing and other units from Ramstein went to Royal Air Force Lakenheath to provide assistance after an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter crash took the lives of four Airmen from the 56th Rescue Squadron Jan. 7.

Ramstein provided support within hours of the accident to assist with recovery operations and the ensuing investigation, help their grieving wingmen, and pay the proper honor and respect to Pave Hawk crewmembers Capt. Christopher Stover, Capt. Sean Ruane, Tech. Sgt. Dale Mathews and Staff Sgt. Afton Ponce.

“Our fellow wingmen at the 56th RQS dedicate their lives to saving others, and the death of these Airmen is a tragedy for the command and the Air Force,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick X. Mordente, 86th AW commander. “The loss of any Airman has a profound impact on everyone in the Air Force, and Team Ramstein Airmen will do what we can to help our sister wing at RAF Lakenheath through this difficult time.”

To provide the best support possible, the 86th AW combined efforts with the 435th AGOW and its 1st Combat Communications Squadron by routing personnel and approximately 13,000 pounds of communications and weather equipment to Lakenheath within 24 hours aboard a C-130J Super Hercules from the 37th Airlift Squadron.

“Providing support to the Airmen of RAF Lakenheath isn’t an option. It’s a responsibility,” said Col. Joseph McFall, 435th AGOW commander. “These  weren’t just co-workers. They were part of our Air Force family, and we owe it to our brothers and sisters at Lakenheath to help them in any way possible as they deal with this tragedy.”

The accident is currently under investigation, and more details will be released at www.lakenheath.af.mil as they become available.

Editor’s Note: This story is dedicated to the memories of Jolly 22 crewmembers Stover, Ruane, Mathews and Ponce. For more information on what the members of the 56th Rescue Squadron and their wingmen worldwide have dedicated their lives to, read  “After the battle: The golden hour.”