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A piece of Hurlburt history recovered

A framed memorial for Spirit 03 is displayed at Hurlburt Field, Florida.

A framed memorial for Spirit 03 is displayed at Hurlburt Field, Florida, Feb. 25, 2021. Spirit 03, an AC-130H Spectre gunship with 14 crewmembers, was shot down during the Battle of Khafji, resulting in the largest single loss by any Air Force unit during Operation Desert Storm. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Miranda Mahoney)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Vincent Chandler, a special missions aviator with the 73rd Special Operations Squadron, stands in front of an AC-130J Ghostrider gunship at Hurlburt Field, Florida.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Vincent Chandler, a special missions aviator with the 73rd Special Operations Squadron, stands in front of an AC-130J Ghostrider gunship at Hurlburt Field, Florida, Feb. 22, 2021. Special mission aviators monitor all functions of the aircraft and provide weapon defense, any place, any time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Miranda Mahoney)

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. --

Operation Desert Storm, Jan. 31, 1991. AC-130H Spectre, Spirit 03, tail number 696567, had been raining hellfire on enemy combatants into the early hours of the morning. As dawn slowly brightened the dark skies, the Spectre began its return to base when the crew valorously turned back toward the fight to provide critical air support to U.S. Marines on the ground.

A single Iraqi surface-to-air missile launched at the gunship, bringing the aircraft down. All 14 Air Commandos lost their lives.

More than 20 years later, the names of those fallen Air Commandos were carefully arranged beneath pieces of Spirit 03 memorabilia and placed in a sturdy frame. But the frame was left untouched for some time, and a thin layer of dust coated the glass.

While helping renovate the old Airman Leadership School building, Senior Airman Vincent Chandler, an aerial delivery supervisor with the 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, spotted the frame out of the corner of his eye.

He was captivated by the vibrant photo of an AC-130H Spectre gunship flying against a sherbet-colored sunset.

“I’ve always had a fascination with gunships and aviation,” said Chandler. “It had the awesome picture, and it also had all the names of the crew, so I thought it looked like a cool dedication piece. I just couldn’t let it be thrown away. It looked too good to not be displayed somewhere.”

With permission from his ALS instructors, Chandler took the dedication piece home where he proudly displayed it in his garage. It served as a good reminder to expand his career goals and do what he had always dreamed of: fly.

Little did he know, four years later he would cross-train to become a special missions aviator with, as luck would have it, the 73rd Special Operations Squadron as a technical sergeant at the same location Spirit 03 was based out of, Hurlburt Field, Florida, and fulfill his dream.

Chandler knew the piece deserved to be displayed somewhere other than his home and thought it was only fitting to showcase it in the squadron. Lt. Col. Clifton Johnson, 73rd SOS commander, agreed.

“It is extremely important that each generation remembers and honors those that came before us, and I am grateful that Tech. Sgt. Chandler has ensured the unit will have a constant reminder of the sacrifices and contributions of these courageous individuals for years to come,” said Johnson.

To commemorate that fateful day exactly 30 years later, members from the 73rd SOS gathered in the commander’s conference room to hang the framed dedication piece in its rightful place, the first operational AC-130J Ghostrider gunship squadron, and serve as a new reminder to ...

Never forget:
Maj. Paul Weaver
Capt. Cliff Bland
Capt. Arthur Galvan
Capt. William Grimm
Capt. Dixon Walters
Senior Master Sgt. Paul Buege
Senior Master Sgt. James May
Tech. Sgt. Robert Hodges
Tech. Sgt. John Oelschlager
Staff Sgt. John Blessinger
Staff Sgt. Timothy Harrison
Staff Sgt. Damon Kanuha
Staff Sgt. Mark Schmauss
Sergeant Barry Clark