NEWS | Jan. 14, 2009

Memorial dedicated in memory of 1988 C-130 crew

By Master Sgt. Bob Oldham 189th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

JACKSONVILLE, Ark. - A lone C-130 propeller blade stands erect, chipped, worn and scratched, telling a silent story of an end to six lives on June 8, 1988.

The blade – obtained from the wreckage of that Hercules aircraft – is a poignant symbol of the tragic loss of life that day.

The memory of Maj. Andy Zwaan, a 189th Airlift Wing instructor pilot; 2nd Lt. Mark Brandt, a Missouri Air National Guard student pilot; 2nd Lt. Thomas Leece, an Air Force Reserve student pilot from Minnesota; Master Sgt. Ed Smith Jr., a 189th instructor flight engineer; Master Sgt. Danny Holland, a 189th instructor loadmaster; and Staff Sgt. David Bingham, a Texas Air National Guard student flight engineer will live on after a memorial in their honor was unveiled Jan. 13 at the Jacksonville Museum of Military History.

The crew of Demon 51, the call sign of the aircraft on a routine C-130 training mission to Greenville, Miss., perished near the Greenville airport after practicing touch-and-go landings.

"Today, the important thing to remember is this crew was doing what their country asked them to do. It doesn't matter that it was a training sortie and not a combat sortie. They were doing what they were asked to do; volunteers serving their country with pride and professionalism," said Col. Jim Summers, 189th commander.

About 150 family members, friends, and current and former military members were on hand to witness the dedication. Tears flowed openly at the ceremony – a testament to how well loved the crew members were.

Other military members spoke about the crew members they knew.

Lt. Col. Andrew Halter of the Missouri Air National Guard was commissioned with Brandt.

The pair carried tool boxes as enlisted members before being commissioned as officers. Brandt headed off to an aviation career while Halter stayed on the ground. Today, he's the deputy commander of the 139th Maintenance Group.

Chief Master Sgt. Kevin O'Gorman, 181st Airlift Squadron flight engineer superintendent, spoke about Bingham.

"David is the only 136th Airlift Wing aviator we've lost since converting from KC-97s back in 1978," the chief said. "We'd like to thank the 189th Airlift Wing and the people of Arkansas for allowing David's memory to be preserved here."

Senior Master Sgt. Robert Bossong, a 154th Training Squadron instructor flight engineer, remembered the 189th crew.

He worked with Holland and Smith in maintenance before they all moved to aviation careers. Later, Bossong said he flew with Zwann and the two NCOs several times.

"They were all hard-working, dedicated instructors," he said. "They knew the challenges and the risks inherent in flying training."

Family members, such as Cabot's Terri Mitchell, daughter of Holland, brought 11 family members with her, including Holland's sister. They were encouraged that the memories of their loved ones will be preserved for museum visitors to learn about.

On the 20th anniversary of the mishap she said she was disappointed that something wasn't done then, but now she says, "I'm very happy."

With the memorial being only a few miles from her home, she said she's sure to come back and visit it. "I think I will; very touching."