Ohio highway dedicated to SOF hero

GREENVILLE, Ohio -- Two F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to Ohio Air National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing provided a final salute to their brother in arms during a ceremony dedicating an Ohio highway to a special operations hero, Aug. 14.

Six miles of County Highway 121 was dedicated in Master Sgt. William L. McDaniel II’s namesake, a Special Tactics pararescueman who was killed when the MH-47 Chinook helicopter he was in crashed in the Philippines Feb. 22, 2002.

"Sergeant McDaniel was living exactly what he trained to do," said Col. Michael Martin, commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing. "That is to be part of an assault force going into an island to rescue American hostages and counter the terrorism by Abu Sayyaf. It was a tragic loss."

McDaniel was part of a joint, special operations team who were infiltrating an island in Southern Philippines. The intent was to infiltrate four teams, establish a forward operating base, collect intelligence and successfully rescue two Americans being held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group. After the fourth infiltration, the Army special forces helicopter crashed into the Sulu Sea. McDaniel, one of his Airmen, and eight U.S. Soldiers were on board the helicopter.

Nearly a 13 years later, the ground work for the highway name change was started and came to fruition in the intimate ceremony with family, friends and Special Tactics Airmen past and present.

“It's certainly an emotional day,” said Ohio State Representative Keith Faber. "It is important that we recognize people, not just when they sacrifice themselves, but every time someone drives up and down this road, they will see this sign. I think it is important that everyone remembers."

Full of humility, McDaniel did not brag on his accomplishments. He was named 2001 Pararescueman of the Year, and his family had no idea.

"He never spoke of it, or boasted about it," said his mother, Sheila McDaniel. "He was very professional."

Not one for the spotlight, McDaniel's mother says he would probably laugh about the dedication.

"He was very humble. He would be tickled about it, but he wouldn't get a big bang out of it," she said. "He loved, more than anything being a pararescueman."

A pararescueman’s unique technical rescue skill sets are utilized during humanitarian and combat operations; they deploy anywhere, anytime, employ air-land-sea tactics into restricted environments to authenticate, extract, treat, stabilize and evacuate injured or isolated personnel.

“Bill McDaniel was a quiet professional," said Col. Jeffrey Staha, who was McDaniel's squadron commander in 2002. ”He was a tremendous man. All he wanted to do was be a PJ and lead anyway he could. He would never want the attention drawn to himself, but to his teammate and squadron."

Special Tactics is the Air Force’s ground special operations force that conducts personnel recovery, global access and precision strike missions.

"Being in Air Force Special Operations Command and specifically in Special Tactics, we are a tight-knit and selfish community on relationships with family," Martin said. "To be able to share this with the Mayors of Greenville and New Madison, the folks from both of those communities, the family friends, is our way to give back to them. They are the heart beat of the Nation...and we are truly humbled to be a part of their life for a brief moment in time."

Special Tactics Airmen hold true to a proud warrior heritage. Special Tactics Airman honor those who’ve gone before them – those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and those who continue to serve and save lives.

“I felt like the dedication was a way he would be remembered for always," said McDaniel's mother. "Not that I would ever forget, but I want everyone else to remember him. When they drive down the road, they would say, 'Wow, that's Master Sgt. McDaniel.'"