Accident Takes a Toll, but Reveals Our Strengths

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Richard Devereaux
  • 82nd Training Wing commander
As many of you figured out, I've been away from Sheppard for some time--5 weeks to be exact. So it's absolutely great to be home! And to be honest, as I surveyed the base and got caught up this week, it quickly became apparent to me that our mission continued to hum along very well without me. I owe a big thanks to my 82 TRW Vice Commander, Col "Beaz" Beasley for that--he did a great job as acting 82 TRW/CC in my absence.

Of course, while I was away, the landscape was tragically marred by the terrible T-38 accident that occurred 2 weeks ago today. This fatal mishap impacted the entire team here at Sheppard and particularly our fellow Airmen in the 80th. As we now try hard to move forward, we will continue to remember the loss of these two special Airmen, Maj Brad Funk and Lt Alec Littler, and continue to support their grieving families and friends. And for me, this incident and its aftermath, reinforced my already high respect and support for Col Dave Petersen and his professional flying training operation in the 80 FTW.

As I mentioned above, I wasn't here at Sheppard during the accident but instead was at Luke AFB AZ investigating another F-16 fatal mishap. Conducting that investigation wasn't much fun, neither was watching events unfold here at home during the accident; however, both experiences made me realize four important lessons, all obvious, but I think worth recounting.

First, our business is risky. Our pilots and other frontline warriors put their lives on the line every day. Every Airmen, uniformed or civilian, directly supports our warrior Airmen every day. Although we work hard to mitigate the dangers, the nature and intensity of our mission will always generate a certain level of life-threatening risk, even in our training environment.

Second, when accidents happen, our Airmen respond professionally. As I observed events unfold from Luke, I was in absolute awe at the quick response of our aviators, medics, maintainers, civil engineers, Services troops, chaplains, counselors, communicators, etc., etc., etc. In the midst of tragedy, our Airmen kept their emotions in check and responded like pros. That's a real testimony to the training and character of our people.

Third, our investigative processes are absolutely thorough and exhaustive. Our Safety and Accident Investigation Boards will go to every length possible to find out what happened and why, anytime an accident occurs that produces significant damage or loss of life. Money, time, and resources are literally no object. We will go to whatever length is necessary to "never leave an Airman behind" by failing to thoroughly investigate a mishap.

Finally, no team comes together during difficult times better than our Air Force team. I was so touched by the outpouring of support across the base, and for that matter, across the community in support of the family, friends, and co-workers of our fallen Airmen. That support continues today and will continue as long as necessary.

So as terrible as this tragedy was, it reaffirmed a few positive, enduring truths about our Airmen and our Air Force. Truths that we should be proud of. For many of us, they compel us to continue to serve.

Thanks Team Sheppard for your impressive support during this difficult time for both our wings.