Tamara Long Archuleta—October 2007 Shipment Honoree
University Graduate Goes Down in Air CrashSource: New Mexico University Daily Lobo
By Clay Holtzman
A UNM alumna was killed Sunday when the helicopter she was copiloting crashed in southeastern Afghanistan during a mission to rescue two critically injured children.
Tamara Long Archuleta, 23, 1st Lt. In the United States Air Force, is described by those who remember her best as an ambitious person who seemed to always accomplish her goals no matter how much work was required.
“She’s always been a very driven person,” said Richard Long, Long Archuleta’s father. “She never was satisfied—she strove to always be at the top.”
Long Archuleta graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in political science from UNM after earning her associate’s degree from the Valencia branch campus where she had been selected to be her class valedictorian in 1997.
“She is one of the best students I have ever worked with—a terrible loss,” said Mark Peceny, associate professor of political science at the UNM main campus.
All six crewmembers of the 41st Rescue Squadron—part of the 347th Operation Group out of Moody Air Force Base in Georgia—were killed in the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter crash. Richard Long said his daughter had just performed a successful rescue mission the previous night. The Pave Hawk is primarily used in extraction and insertion missions during booth day and night.
“She was one of our top cadets,” said Lt. Col. Richard Trembley, commanding officer of the UNM Air Force ROTC program. “A very admirable cadet and a very focused individual.”
Long Archuleta was enrolled in the two-year officer training corps program and during her time at UNM was also was the commander of the Arnold Air Society, a service organization for Air Force cadets.
“She pushed you, she set an example,” said Air Force cadet Ralph Merrill, who was mentored by Long Archuleta when he started the ROTC program. “Really, she was a role model.”
Theresa Carabajal, an employee at the campus Air Force office, said she has seen nearly 1,000 cadets who have been commissioned as officers through ROTC, but she remembered Long Archuleta for her outstanding performance in the classroom and because she was willing to cut off half of her knee-length hair to make her training easier.
Ceremony honors Moody’s fallenSource: War On Terror News
By Rip Prine
MOODY AIR FORCE BASE — There was standing room only for a memorial service at Moody Air Force Base Thursday as airmen paid tribute to six heroes who died Sunday in Afghanistan.
Members of the 41st and 38th Rescue Squadrons comforted each other as they looked at photographs of their fallen comrades, whose HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter crashed while en route to rescue two injured Afghan children. Their actions symbolized the combat search and rescue motto: “That Others May Live.”
“The reason we are here this afternoon is to honor the crew of Komodo 11,” said Brig Gen. John Folkerts, commander, 347th Rescue Wing. The crew members were Lt. Col. John Stein, Capt. (Select) Tamara Archuleta, Master Sgt. Michael Maltz, Staff Sgt. John Teal, Staff Sgt. Jason Hicks and Senior Airman Jason Plite.
“All of us at Moody Air Force Base are deeply grateful for your presence here today as we grieve the loss of part of our family,” Folkerts said. “We’ll honor them throughout history for their deeds, but today we gather as a community to say we miss you.”
It was a time for those gathered to heal, said Col. Tom Trask, commander, 347th Operations Group. “It will be our job to take up the slack and continue to carry on the combat rescue mission and the combat rescue,” Trask said. “They were us, and now part of us is gone.”
“Their mission was to attempt to rescue two small children from Afghanistan—two children that represent the future of a country that we freed from tyranny,” Trask said. “There is no one that can argue that this was a just and worthwhile mission.”
Individuals who knew the Komodo 11 crew gave personal accounts of their friends.
First Lt. Todd Thorpe spoke of his relationship with Stein, whom he referred to as his mentor. “When I think of Lt. Col. Stein, I think of the No. 1 principal of leadership,” Thorpe said. “He was the epitome of technical and tactical expert.”
Michael Long, Archuleta’s uncle, and former pararescueman, was stationed at the PJ school, Kirkland AFB, N.M., when his niece was born, he said. He had the fortune to watch her grow, before the Air Force took him away. He remembered her successes and her mastery of karate skills that were taught by her father. He remembered her determination to become an Air Force officer and pilot. “To me, she’s still the little cousin my daughter used to play with,” Long said.
Senior Master Sgt. William Sine, 38th RQS, spoke on behalf of Maltz, whom he had known for 17 years. He described Maltz as an awesome pararescueman who lived and breathed the job. As an instructor, Maltz shaped and molded numerous PJs, Sine said..
Staff Sgt. David Lacey, 41st RQS remembered Teal, whom he said his close friends referred to as Mike rather than John. “Mike loved flying and the rescue mission,” Lacey said. He mentioned a mission in Afghanistan in which he and Teal volunteered to fly extra time to rescue a badly wounded soldier on the side of a mountain at about 9,000 feet.
Staff Sgt. William Hale described his friend Hicks playing a football game like he was in the Super Bowl, Hale said. “I never met anybody like Jason before,” Hale said. “He was always full of life. He had that typical goofy look on his face, and if you looked at him you couldn’t help but smile. I’ll never forget him. He died doing what he loved.”
Staff Sgt. (Select) Sean Cunningham, 38th RQS, described 21-year-old Plite as a man who loved his job and loved being a PJ. “He was strong, he was energetic, enthusiastic … ,” Cunningham said. “He wanted to learn everything, he wanted to know everything, he wanted to be the best PJ he could be.”
Today, crews like Komodo 11 are conducting combat search and rescue missions in Afghanistan and other areas of the world. They have been responsible for saving 57 people ranging from U.S. and Allied military forces to Afghan civilians since their arrival in Afghanistan about 16 months ago, Trask said.
Pilot’s Death Strikes Close to Home for Third-GradersSource: The Associated Press
LAKE PARK, Ga. — The death of a Moody Air Force Base helicopter pilot in Afghanistan struck close to home for third-graders at Georgia’s Lake Park Elementary School.
1st Lt. Tamara Archuleta of Belen, a co-pilot with the 41st Rescue Squadron at the air base near the school, had written to the pupils just last month in response to letters they had sent to lend their support to military personnel overseas. ?Archuleta and five other airmen died Sunday when their HH-60G Pave Hawk crashed en route to rescue two Afghan children who had suffered severe head wounds. The 23-year-old officer had a 3-year-old son.
About two weeks ago, Stacy Scarborough’s class received a package that contained 13 letters, all from Archuleta. There was also a U.S. flag with a certificate saying it had flown over Uzbekistan during Operation Enduring Freedom in honor of the Lake Park third-grade class.
“I think at that moment it all came together — the description of the flag being flown over there. The children were very excited,” Scarborough said. “It meant a lot to them.” The flag hangs on the wall in Scarborough’s classroom and will be flown permanently at the school shortly after spring break to honor all the men and women in the military.
The students started writing in January, and each has sent three to four letters. Scarborough told the children they might not receive replies because the troops were so busy. The package from Archuleta was more than they expected. “The fact that she wrote each individual, they picked up on that and knew how special that was,” the teacher said.
Landon Luke, 9, wrote his first letter to a military person overseas and started it off with “Dear Soldier.” “I told them about myself and my hobbies,” he said. When he read Archuleta’s description of what the 41st did, he was amazed. “I was proud, and I felt good,” he said.
Taylor Thomas, 9, also felt pride. When she learned that Archuleta was killed, she cried. “I was very sad, because she was the very first person who had sent a letter to us,” Taylor said.
Robin White said her 8-year-old, Joseph, received his letter from Archuleta about two weeks ago. It was dated Feb. 23. Archuleta responded directly to him and mentioned how her son liked Scooby Doo, too. Joseph learned of Archuleta’s death Tuesday morning when he saw the story in the newspaper, his mother said. “He was stunned,” she said. “The person he wrote to and received a letter from was his first encounter with death. I told him our troops are defending our country, and they are willing to die for their country. “It’s got our whole family thinking about her. We didn’t know her, but now we feel like we did,” she said.
Letter From Pilot Archuleta to a Third-Grader Here is one of the letters written to third-graders at Lake Park Elementary School in Georgia by Air Force helicopter pilot Tamara Archuleta before she was killed in a crash in Afghanistan:
Dear Joseph, I am a pilot in the 41st Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, of the United States Air Force. We are based out of Moody AFB in Valdosta, Georgia. We are currently covering the Afghanistan theatre in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and the Anti-Terrorism Task Force. Our squadron has a very special job. We fly HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters in combat search and rescue. We go behind enemy lines to cover downed personnel and isolated troops.
In peacetime, we do civilian rescues for people that are lost and hurt at sea, or in the mountains and need to get to a hospital. That is a lot of what we have been doing here to help show the people of Afghanistan that we are here to help them.
Thank you so much for the card! It was very nice of you to write the troops here a letter. I hung your cards up on the wall so that everyone can look at them and read your letters! My son likes Scooby Doo, too. Keep working hard in school and you can be anything you want to be when you grow up!
1LT, USAF 41st Rescue Squadron
Director of Training