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Hurlburt commemorates Desert One 26th anniversary

Airmen from the Hurlburt Field Honor guard prepare to retire the colors at a retreat ceremony April 28 in honor of those who lost their lives in Desert One while trying to rescue 52 American hostages in Iran 26 years ago.

Airmen from the Hurlburt Field Honor guard prepare to retire the colors at a retreat ceremony April 28 in honor of those who lost their lives in Desert One while trying to rescue 52 American hostages in Iran 26 years ago.

HURLBURT, FIELD, FLA -- The 16th Special Operations Wing took a break from its operational readiness exercise April 28 to remember the sacrifice of those Airmen and Marines who gave their lives at Desert One, an effort to rescue 52 American hostages in Iran. More than 100 Airmen, dressed in flight suits, battle dress uniforms, and chemical warfare suits gathered at the airpark for a formal retreat ceremony.

Members of the 8th Special Operations Squadron, the unit to which the fallen Airmen belonged, sounded off the name of the fallen. One by one, Airmen stepped forward and took their place beside the podium, representing Capt. Richard Bakke, Capt. Harold Lewis, Capt. Lyn McIntosh, Capt. James McMillan II, Tech. Sgt. Joel Mayo, Marine Staff Sgt. Dewey Johnson, Marine Sgt. John Harvey and Marine Cpl. George Holmes Jr.

The crowd was silent. The only noise to be heard was the traffic along Cody and Independence avenues.

Col. Norman Brozenick, 16th Special Operations Wing commander, gave a brief recap of the event during his introduction of the guest speaker, retired Col. Kenneth Poole, a navigator on the mission.

“Their mission was to rescue our American hostages held against their will in Tehran,” said Col. Brozenick. “He (Colonel Poole) stands before us as a testament to those who dare.”

Colonel Poole took the podium and delivered his message to the Airmen, some of whom were not even born at the time of the tragedy. He talked about how all the Airmen on the mission weren’t forced to go, but that they were all volunteers.

“Those fallen comrades are always in my thoughts,” said retired Col. Roland Guidry, the commander of the 8th SOS at the time of the tragedy.
He selected the mission’s aircrews.

“I put people on each crew,” said Colonel Guidry. “But a commander can’t look back at that. You can’t ever look back (on those decisions).”
“It was high risk, but it was just as high gain,” said Colonel Poole. “Beneath the flames and charred metal of the destroyed aircraft, the seed for what is now special operations was planted.”

Colonel Poole told the Airmen gathered that they had a responsibility to carry on the Desert One legacy.

“All special operators carry the flame to never fail our nation again,” said the colonel. “All Air Commandos carry that flame today.”

After the speech, a procession of Airmen in two columns crossed the street to the chapel. The line of Airmen stretched from the airpark all the way to the chapel and looked like a camouflaged stream. A wreath was placed at the Desert One memorial stained glass window.

Colonel Poole then slowly raised a salute to his fallen comrades.

This gesture is what moved one of those Airmen charged by the retired Colonel to “carry the flame.”
“The hairs on the back of my neck stood up,” said Airman 1st Class Harry Tabata, 8th SOS radio operator. “It made me remember we were celebrating the birth of Air Force Special Operations Command and remembering our fallen comrades.”