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Team Pope Memorial Ruck

  • Published
  • By Joe Barker

POPE ARMY AIRFIELD, N.C. – Over 300 members of Pope Army Airfield (PAAF) spanning five MAJCOMs took part in its inaugural Memorial Ruck/Walk on May 25 to remember Team Pope's heroes heading into Memorial Day weekend. Eight stops were made along the seven-mile path to honor a handful of the many PAAF airmen and civilians who are no longer with us, but many more were in Team Pope’s thoughts as the Team trekked the distance.

The idea for the ruck/walk originated with the 43d Air Mobility Operations Group (AMOG) commander, Col. Andrew Black. He felt that an event like this was important and a fitting tribute to honor our nation’s, and Team Pope’s heroes to which there are many, including those lost during the 1994 Green Ramp disaster.

“The intent of this Team Pope event was multi-pronged… First & foremost, this was a great opportunity to pay tribute to our Team Pope heroes and honor our fallen, some of whom were taken from us too early via combat, others non-combat related,” said Black. “This also provided a great opportunity to inform & educate our Team on our AF facilities that are in the process of being memorialized or were memorialized for our heroes over the years.”

“Additionally, this highlighted our Memorialization Program that was instituted this past year aimed at helping Team Pope units navigate through the Memorialization Process at Ft Bragg/Liberty for any prospective facilities they would like to Memorialize here like we did with the Matthew Platt hangar, a hero I had the opportunity to become close friends and serve with,” he concluded.

Col Black also believes that events like this are a great opportunity to get out of the office as a Group & Team to engage in a functional physical activity that can be challenging, possibly adding a little discomfort, and meaning to the outing. It also provides the opportunity to build connectedness amongst one another as we reflect and pay tribute heading into the Memorial holiday weekend, helping reinforce, rekindle, or possibly help our members find their ‘Why’ when it comes to serving.

Although the idea of the march was something he felt compelled to do, Col Black said that there wasn’t just one single person or event that made him want to do this but rather a compilation. It was an education in the history of Team Pope and the Airman who came before.

“There was not one specific event or person, but rather many I could call out, some I knew, some I served with, some I just heard stories about,” commented ColBlack. “Knowing the rich history Team Pope has and the many heroes that have served here makes this a very special place and one of hallowed grounds. “Gone but not forgotten” should have real meaning, and events like this help ensure this meaning is brought to life. I wanted our Pope Warriors, especially the younger or newer ones, to learn and understand how important and special Team Pope is. It is also a terrific opportunity to recage our minds and reignite our sense of service and what is important. Team Pope of now may not be the Pope AFB of old, but the pride and heritage of our Airmen & GS-civilians lives strong. We need that to endure.”

After the idea was developed, the planning and execution of the event fell under the purview of a group of talented Airmen. Col Black enlisted the help of 1st Lt. Christine Krimmer and Tech. Sgt. Nathan Figurin, Staff Sgt. Ashley Preciado and others to start the process of memorializing multiple facilities in honor of Team Pope's fallen heroes. Since its stand-up in September 2023, additional Team Pope members have volunteered for this important effort. After the Memorialization Team thought up the ruck march/walk concept, the preparation process started. 1st Lt. Quillie Brabham, and Staff Sgt. Brandon Perez took the concept and made it a reality.

According to Staff Sgt. Perez, he and 1st Lt. Brabham began gathering everything they would need to safely organize the march in April.

"1st Lt. Brabham and I made certain that this event would take place. We organized and secured everything from safety to food, vehicles, and decorations, as well as held meetings with Col. Black, key stakeholders, and nonprofit organizations," he said. “1st Lt. Brabham and I have worked hard to gather all the missing biographies as well as coming up with the route and making sure all details were accounted for,” Staff Sgt. Perez concluded.

On Thursday, 25 May, more than 300 Airmen and civilians participated in this inaugural event. Each person rucking had their own reason for making the trek, their own story to tell and people they chose to remember. The event began with remarks from Col Black and the 21st Special Tactics Squadron Commander, Lt Col Falcone highlighting the importance of paying respects to the fallen but also keeping in our thoughts the surviving family members, an invocation from the 43 AMOG Chaplain James Harris, followed by 22 warrior pushups led by the Commander of the 352nd Special Warfare Training Squadron, Lt Col Nathan Smith, to honor the fallen. Then the 7-mile ruck/walk around the airfield started with a sea of Air Force Warriors marching from the Senior Airman Ashton L.M. Goodman Airmen’s Center around the Pope Field flight line, passing units and other memorialized facilities along the way. Nearly 50 volunteers were stationed at memorial sites with water and QR codes to scan. The QR code at each site pulled up information on the hero behind the memorial to read as they continued their journey. Those being memorialized on this ruck were: Lt. Gen. Elwood R. Quesada, Lt. Col. Mathew P. Platt, Staff Sgt. Forrest Sibley, 2nd Lt. Joseph R. Sarnoski, Senior Airman Ashton L. M. Goodman, Tech Sgt. William H. Jefferson Jr., Airman 1st Clas Raymond Losano, Senior Airman Bradley R. Smith, SrA Ashton L.M. Goodman, Senior Airman Mark A. Forester and Mr. Harris S. Luther.

Col Black succinctly summed up the meaning of Memorial Day when he said, “Memorial Day is a day to reflect and give thanks to the many men & women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our nation as well as those who served that are no with us anymore. While I’m more of the reflective type, it is also appropriate to celebrate these heroes, like we did today with the comments, hero & history narratives, Team ruck, and picnic. I was born on Memorial Day and in a military family, so was fortunate enough to have parents that taught me at a young age what the day means. Each year I serve, the meaning grows stronger and more personal. Memorial Day reminds me of a President Harry S. Truman quote that is chiseled into the stone at the World War II Memorial in Washington DC. While we have continued to evolve as a nation, this still rings true… “Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid, they have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.” I continually think about this, but if folks are not able to think about this on any other day throughout the year , at least this day is special and dedicated to them. That is what Memorial Day means to me.”

As we enter the Memorial Day weekend, please take a few moments to remember our fallen heroes and those they left behind. The members of Team Pope are grateful for their many sacrifices made.

Here are some of the fallen that Tem Pope members walked for:

SSgt Alfredo Silva

SSgt Dan Schiele

SGT Paul Newbauer

SPC Shakere Guy

SPC Mike Sonoda

CPT Raymond Hill

Jason Swindle

Andy Harvel


Mr. Warren Beard

Col Robert Brinckmann

Lt J.G. Francis Toner

Capt Mark Voss, Shell 77

1st Lt William Donnelly

MSgt Evander Andrews

Maj David Gray

TSgt John W. Brown

TSgt Daniel L. Zerbe

TSgt Scott E. Duffman

SSgt Scott D. Sather

CMSgt Alcide “Bull” Benini

CMSgt James Howell

Mr. Alex Marsha

Lt Gen Elwood “Pete” Quesada

Mr. Harris S. Luther III

Lt Col Jay Zeamer, Jr.

SSgt Gerald A. Coyle

TSgt Charles L. Shaub

CMSgt Wade H. Baucom

Cpl Eugene Bullard

Lt Col Vernon Burge

TSgt Mark Scholl

Mrs. Esther McGowin Blake

Lt Col John Collins

TSgt John A. Chapman

SrA Daniel R. Sanchez

Maj Jeffrey O. Ausborn

SFC Shawn P. McCloskey

Capt Todd Brunkhorst

MSgt Eden Pearl (USMC)

Capt Garrett T. “Tubes” Lawton (USMC)

Mr. Jim Sires

Col Zachary Laird

Mr. Kareem Clay

SSgt James McKenzie

"The 55" from 352nd SWTS:

A2C Edward J. Marion

A1C Hosea L. Jones

TSgt Richard L. Foxx

A2C James G. Phillips

A2C Billy R. Henson

TSgt Raymond M. Litz

A1C Andre R. Guillet

SSgt Edward J. Kimble

A1C Gerald L. Gauthier, Jr.

A1C William E. Jerkins

MSgt Charles A. Paradise

TSgt Frederick L. Thrower

SGT Paul F. Foster

SSgt Rondal Lavall

SGT Gerard A. Miedrich, Jr.

SMSgt Burgess L. Everson

SrA James D. Bach

SSgt Glen D. Bloomer

SSgt Eddy D. Clark

SGT Jonathan D. Goerling

Capt Roderick C. Gress

SGT Emilio F. Martinez, Jr.

TSgt Larry A. Rainey

SGT Steven M. Ray

SSgt Victor A. Valle

Capt Michael E. Dionne

TSgt Jerome E. Bennett

Tech Sgt. David A. Atkinson

Senior Airman Derek C. Hughes

Sgt. Mark E. Lee

Cpt. Jeremy Fresques

SSgt Casey J. Crate

SrA Adam P. Servais

TSgt William H. Jefferson

SSgt Timothy P. Davis

SrA Daniel R. Sanchez

SrA Mark A. Forester

SSgt Andrew W. Harvell

TSgt Marty B. Bettelyoun

SSgt Forrest B. Sibley

Capt Matthew D. Roland

SSgt Dylan J. Elchin

SSgt Cole N. Condiff

A1C Keigan J. Baker

Capt Michael L. Nazionale

TSgt Mark Scholl

A1C Allen Hutchinson

TSgt J.D. Steagald

TSgt John A. Chapman

Capt Panuk P. Soomsawasdi

TSgt Christopher A. Matero

TSgt Martin A. Tracey

SSgt Scott D. Sather

Capt Derek M. Argel