Moody dedicates new road, honors Komodo 11

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Courtney Sebastianelli
  • 23rd Wing public Affairs

 For nearly 20 years, the tragic events of Komodo 11, an HH-60G Pavehawk helicopter crash, have remained in the hearts of those whose loved ones made the ultimate sacrifice and the Flying Tigers who carry on their legacy.

Though time has passed, the memory of Komodo 11 has not eroded.

Team Moody dedicated a newly paved road, Komodo 11 Blvd., honoring the loss of the six crew members onboard, during a memorial ceremony at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, March 23, 2022.

“Dedicating a street to Komodo 11 drives home what their sacrifice means to Moody,” said Antonio Del Vecchio, the crew chief for the HC-130P Combat King when Komodo 11 crashed. “Remembering their sacrifice makes me want to continue what they did and ultimately live up to the motto they stood by; ‘so that others may live.’”

On March 23, 2003, the crew of Komodo 11, assigned to the 41st and 38th Rescue Squadrons, was tasked with a humanitarian rescue mission of two children in Afghanistan. En route, the helicopter was engaged in an in-flight refueling operation with an HC-130 aircraft when it crashed into mountainous terrain.

Komodo 13 accompanied Komodo 11 on the humanitarian mission. Though further behind the formation, then 1st Lt. Christopher Spindler, Komodo 13 aircraft commander, witnessed the tragedy unfold.

“They launched that night to save others,” Spindler said during the ceremony. “There is no nobler cause.”

In an instant, the lives of Lt. Col. John Stein, aircraft commander; 1st Lt. Tamara Archuleta, co-pilot; Staff Sgt. John Teal, flight engineer; Staff Sgt. Jason Hicks, aerial gunner; Master Sgt. Michael Maltz and Senior Airman Jason Plite, both pararescuemen, were gone.

“The ceremony was very emotional for me,” said Lt. Col. Brian Desautels, 71st Rescue Squadron commander. “I’d never heard the whole story before in my eight collective years at Moody. It is important for our current Air Force rescue members to remember those who went before us to lay it out on the line to save lives and truly live the motto, ‘these things we do, so that others may live.’”

Over the years, Moody has paid tribute to Komodo 11 in a variety of ways to include a memorial wall in the halls of the 41st RQS, six trees planted on base in their name, and an engraved bench in front of the HH-60G Pavehawk at the Heritage Air Park. Now almost two decades after the event, the road dedication of Komodo 11 Blvd. honors the crew and their sacrifice.

“This happened 19 years ago and people have asked ‘why wasn’t this done sooner?’” said Mark Godwin, 23rd Wing historian. “The answer is timing. Choosing to wait for the brand-new road that will lead to the home of the 41st and 71st Rescue Squadron will forever honor them and their ultimate sacrifice.”