U.S. Special Forces, Philippine service members honor the fallen during "Wild 42" memorial observance

  • Published
  • By U.S. Air Force Maj. Darrick B. Lee
  • Joint Special Operations Task Force - Philippines Public Affairs
 Members of Joint Special Operations Task Force -Philippines held a ceremony Feb. 22 observing the 10th anniversary of an aircraft accident that claimed the lives of two 320th Special Tactics Squadron pararescuemen and eight U.S. Army Soldiers supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines joined U.S. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen at Camp Navarro in paying respects to Special Operations Aviators and Air Commandos who perished when their U.S. MH-47E Chinook helicopter, call sign Wild 42, went down in the Bohol Sea while returning from a mission in Basilan in 2002.

"Ten years ago today Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines was well underway, when tragedy struck our Nation again," said U.S. Army Chaplain (Captain) Johnnie Elder, while leading a prayer. "Ten American warriors died, bringing the world-wide War on Terror casualty count to 32 that day. Let us bow our heads."

An intense, multi-day search and rescue operation followed. First responders recovered remains of eight of the ten service members a few miles off the southern coast of the Negros Islands.

During the ceremony, U.S. Army Col. Fran Beaudette, commander of JSOTF-P, and the JSOTF-P Senior Enlisted Advisor, Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Gilliand, laid a wreath at the base of a memorial plaque. A bell rang as each of the names of the fallen was recited.

Lost were: U.S. Army Maj. Curtis D. Feistner; Army Capt. Bartt D. Owens; Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jody L. Egnor; Army Staff Sgt. James P. Dorrity; Army Staff Sgt. Kerry W. Frith; Army Staff Sgt. Bruce A. Rushforth Jr.; Army Sgt. Jeremy D. Foshee;
Spec. Thomas F. Allison; Air Force Master Sgt. William L. McDaniel II and Air Force Staff Sgt. Juan M. Ridout.

"Ten years ago, the lives of ten families changed forever," said Col. Beaudette as he addressed the crowd, which included a joint formation of U.S. and Philippine forces. "Take time to think about these ten names and those hundreds of thousands of Americans and Filipinos before them who led them home and accomplished their missions, as we'll accomplish ours."

For the Airmen of the 320th STS, a small memorial hanging in the hallway is a daily reminder of the sacrifice made by Ridout and McDaniel.

"The loss of Pararescuemen William McDaniel and Juan Ridout in 2002 remains close to our hearts here at the 320th STS," said Lt. Col. John Traxler, the 320th STS commander. "They are honored not only by a new generation of Special Tactics warriors, but by numerous friends and teammates who are still here or have returned for a second assignment. We are reminded of Juan and William not to measure their character, but to measure our own, and to remind us of our obligation to carry on their legacy of heroism, excellence and selflessness. I am humbled each time I pass their pictures and stories in our hallways, mindful of the challenge to live my life in a manner worthy of those great men."

U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force - Philippines was established to support the Armed Forces of the Philippines in their fight against trans-national terrorism. Since its inception, 17 U.S. service members have died while advising and assisting Philippine forces with efforts to secure peace and stability in the Mindanao Region.

Today, combat controllers, pararescuemen and special operations weatherman from the 320th STS maintain a constant presence supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in the Philippines.