kills crew and 3 Combat Controllers
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All Rights Reserved.
Puerto Rico (AP) - A search team cut into the wreckage of a U.S. Air
Force plane Sunday and found the bodies of two servicemen, the last of
10 who died when their plane slammed into a mountainside.
searchers found the bodies after opening a battered section of the
cockpit using a specialized saw and other equipment, officials said.
have finished one of the most important missions, which is the recovery
of bodies," said Lt. Col. Adolfo Menendez, commander of a National
Guard unit at the crash site. "Now begins the investigation."
MC-130H special operations plane crashed during a training mission
Wednesday night. The bulky plane was flying in rain and fog when it
struck Monte Perucho, broke in two and erupted in flames, witnesses
crash left wreckage scattered over the mountainside near Caguas, 20
miles south of San Juan.
30 searchers and military investigators were working at the crash site
as the two bodies were found Sunday, officials said. The area was
closed to reporters.
a 10-member team from the Air Force Safety Center at Kirtland Air Force
Base, New Mexico, began supervising the investigation Sunday, officials
said. An Air Force accident board also was being assembled to rule on
the cause, which remained unclear.
on Friday found the cockpit voice recorder. The plane had no flight
data recorder, officials said.
two bodies found on Sunday were being flown by helicopter to nearby
Roosevelt Roads Naval Station on the U.S. territory's northeast coast.
Air Force released three final names of victims on Saturday and Sunday
after notifying their families.
of the 10 victims were from Air Force Special Operations at Hurlburt
Field, Florida; one was from the Air Intelligence Agency and assigned
to a unit in Florida; two were members of the Kentucky Air National
Guard on temporary duty in Puerto Rico; and one was assigned to Puerto
Rico for the Southern Command's Special Operations Command.
victims from the 16th Special Operations Wing were identified as pilot
Maj. Michael J. Akos, co-pilot Capt. Christel A. Chavez, navigator Maj.
Gregory W. Fritz, loadmaster Staff Sgt. Robert J. McGuire Jr.,
electronic weapons officer 1st Lt. Nathanial D. Buckley and flight
engineer Tech. Sgt. Robert S. Johnson.
identified were Staff Sgt. Shane H. Kimmet, a support operator from the
Air Intelligence Agency, Capt.
Panuk P. Soomsawasdi, a special tactics liaison officer with Special
Operations Command, and two Combat Controllers from the Kentucky Air
National Guard, Tech. Sgt. Martin Tracy and Tech. Sgt. Christopher A.
plane belonged to the Air Force Special Operations Command and was
flying from Roosevelt Roads Naval Station to the Borinquen Air Station
on the Caribbean island's west coast.
accident was the second in two months involving the four-engine Combat
Talon II, a special operations variant of the C-130 Hercules cargo
plane. The other crashed in June in Afghanistan, killing three.
|The following is the
decease information of three Combat Controllers
who died while on a training mission as the result of the crash of a
MC-130H in Puerto Rico on August 7, 2002:
In 1995, he cross-trained into the Combat Control
field as a Special Tactics Officer. He was a graduate of
the Combat Control School Class 96-3 and following the completion of
this arduous qualification training, he was assigned to the 321st
Special Tactics Squadron, Royal Air Force Base, Mildenhall, England
from 1996 to 1999 as a flight team leader. During this assignment
he met and married Caroline Whittington Soomsawasdi. He was then
assigned to the 23d Special Tactics Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Florida
from 1999 to 2001 as a Special Tactics Flight Commander. During
this assignment, Major Soomsawasdi skillfully prepared his flight for
combat through realistic training. Following his time with the
teams, Major Soomsawasdi was assigned as Special Tactics Liaison
Officer, Naval Air Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico from 2001 to
2002 where his son, Eli was born 3 August 2001.
|Major Paul Soomsawasdi was born on 1 June 1966 in Thonburi, Thailand.
He moved to the United States at the age of 2 and grew up in Ahoskie
and Windsor, North Carolina. He attended Pitt Community College,
shortly after graduating high school in 1984, and then ultimately
graduated from East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science in
Mathematics in 1992. He was a very active member of the ROTC program.
Major Soomsawasdi was commissioned in the United States Air Force in
1992. His first duty assignment was at Los Angeles Air Force Base,
California in the Acquisitions field. From 1993 to 1996, Major
Soomsawasdi competed in a reserve officer military pentathlon
competition involving European military allies in the reserve officer
ranks. During this same competition, he was the top U.S. finisher and
was awarded the Rookie of The Year for his pentathlon team. Also that
same year, his three-man team won distinct honors along with United
States military participate in the International Military
competition in South America, an event equivalent to the Olympics. His
natural athletic ability, tremendous work ethic, and mental toughness
were the qualities that made him a perfect choice to become a Combat
Major Soomsawasdi's awards include the Defense
Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal with two
devices, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, and the Air Force
Achievement Medal with one device.
Preceded in death by daughter Emma Soomsawasdi in the year 2000, Major
Soomsawasdi is survived by his wife Caroline, son Eli, his mother
Carolyn Castelloe, step-father Earl Castelloe, sisters Catherine Allen
and Teresa Vaught; as well as many nieces, nephews, other extended
family, and teammates.
Sergeant Martin A. Tracy was a Combat Controller in the 123rd Special
Tactics Squadron, Kentucky Air National Guard, Louisville,
Kentucky, for more than six years.
The Newark, New Jersey native began his military
career in 1987 as a vehicle mechanic in the Army National Guard’s
50th Ordinance Battalion. One year later, Sergeant Tracy left his
position with the Army and joined the active duty Air Force, where he
served as a survival instructor in the 22nd Training Squadron at
Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, until 1996. During his
assignment, Sergeant Tracy was instrumental in the testing of
parachutist operations from the C-17 Globemaster, the USAF's premier
this assignment was complete, Sergeant Tracy left active duty and
joined the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123d Special Tactics
Squadron, where he earned his red beret and became a Combat Controller
after accomplishing some of the military’s most grueling
training. Sergeant Tracy, like many Combat Controllers, stayed
deployed over 200 days a year.
In the latter
part of 2001, Sergeant Tracy was placed on federal mobility orders and
deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM
(OEF). During his deployment, he played a vital role as part of
an Army Special Forces team. He regularly participated in ground
combat operations to identify and attack Taliban forces.
Additionally, his efforts to assist with humanitarian aid continued to
help rebuild and stabilize the war-torn region in which he operated.
returning from his OEF deployment, Sergeant Tracy deployed in support
of Special Operations Command-South, Puerto Rico, to augment
vital ongoing operations in that region. His contributions
to the mission were lauded as exemplary.
Medal, the Air Force
Commendation Medal, the Air Force Achievement Medal with one device,
the Air Force Outstanding Unit Medal with three devices, and the
Kentucky Distinguished Service Medal.
| Sergeant Tracy will be remembered as
the embodiment of the modern special operations warrior. His physical
fitness was legendary and considered to be in the top echelon of his
elite community. Moreover, he was an intellectually superior Airman.
Sergeant Tracy’s stellar performance and accomplishments were
indicative of his high level of commitment. Further, his devotion to
his family shone as a beacon in all that he did.
Sergeant Tracy's awards and
decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with Valor, the Meritorious
Service Medal, the Joint Service Commendation
Tracy is survived by his wife Cathy Tracy, and his two sons, Malcolm
and Chad; his mother Mary Tracy, sisters Paula Tracy and Gina Brant;
and a strong family support structure including friends and teammates.
In Memory of TSgt Dave Atkinson
Entered Into Eternal
Monday, July 22, 1991
July 22nd 1991, TSgt Dave Atkinson was fatally injured following a High
Altitude, High Opening (HALO) equipment parachute jump from 12,500 feet
on the Eglin AFB range complex. Dave was assigned to the 123rd TAW
Kentucky ANG and was participating in military freefall training with
members of the 1723rd Special Tactics Squadron from Hurlburt Field, Fl.
He was the only Combat Candontroller in his unit with previous active
duty CCT experience and was the driving force in developing viable and
realistic training programs.
Dave was a person of deep religious convictions with a
remarkably strong faith as a Christian. He will be missed by all of us who knew
him. Dave is survived by his wife Debra and their two children Zachary and
Christopher A. Matero was a Combat Controller in the 123rd Special
Tactics Squadron, Kentucky Air National Guard, Louisville, Kentucky,
since May 2001.
The Lagrangeville, NewYork native joined the active duty Air Force in
1992 and went on to earn his Combat Control beret after completing the
rigorous training required by the career field. He was then
assigned to the 314th Combat Control Squadron at Little Rock Air Force
Base, Arkansas, until 1997, when he left to become an instructor.
Matero was next assigned as a Combat Control Instructor in the 342nd
Training Squadron at Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina, where he
served until joining the Air National Guard. During his tenure as
an instructor, Sergeant Matero trained many young Combat Controllers
who have since served gallantly in both Operation ENDURING FREEDOM and
Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.
Matero, like other Combat Controllers, spent a good deal of his time
deployed. Not long after he joined the 123rd Special Tactics
Squadron, he was called to federal active duty and was himself deployed
to Afghanistan in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF).
OEF deployment, Sergeant Matero ran airfield operations key to the
infusion of combat forces fighting the war on terrorism and the
introduction of humanitarian aid critical to the survival of
noncombatants in the region.
completing his OEF mission, Sergeant Matero deployed in support of
Special Operations Command-South, Puerto Rico, to augment vital ongoing
operations in that location. He was lauded for the impact his
contributions made to the team.
Matero will be remembered for his excellence in every facet of his
profession. Recognized for his leadership potential, he was
selected for commissioning as an officer, where his talents would have
furthered the success of the 123d Special Tactics Squadron. His
dedication to maintain the utmost levels of physical fitness and attain
knowledge critical to mission success was indicative of his
professionalism. Further, Sergeant Matero’s devotion to his
family was reflected in all his actions throughout his career.
Matero's awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, the
Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the
Air Force Commendation Medal, and the Air Force Achievement Medal.
Matero is survived by his wife, Roneisa, his daughter Brianna, and his
son Dante; his father Frank Matero, brothers Robert, John, and Michael;
and a strong support network of aunts, uncles and extended family.
|The Bluegrass State and
the 123rd STS send a heartfelt greeting to
everyone. As most of you know by now, our unit suffered the
loss of two awesome
Combat Controllers on August 7th, 2002. TSgt (Lt Select) Chris
Matero and TSgt Martin Tracy, as well as all personnel aboard the
MC-130H were killed. The plane was on a training mission when it
impacted a mountain in a heavily wooded area near Caguas, Puerto Rico.
Capt Paul Soomsawasdi (SOCSOUTH STS LNO) was also on board. It has been
a tough few months for our small tight-knit unit. A memorial service
was held ten days after the incident with hundreds attending from all
over the globe. Both men were consummate “Quiet
Professionals” who set the example for others. Both
family and operators will miss them
been deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF),
and returned safely. We would like to thank everyone who has so
graciously assisted us in this time of sorrow. The STS community has
been like a huge family and I can’t say enough about you all.
truly the times that test our resolve and fortitude, a war in-progress
and teammates dying in the line of duty.
to right; Jon Rosa
Most of the
returned from OEF and the training that was missed must now be
accomplished. Almost the entire 123rd was federally activated in
support of OEF, and subsequently deployed. Our operators sent worldwide
(CCT/PJ) accomplished great things and someday their deeds will be
known. A few promotions need to be announced. SMSgt Joel Hicks put on
Chief while deployed somewhere for OEF, and SSgt Sean McLane became a
2Lt. Both will be doing great things for the unit and the ST community.
CMSgt Hicks remains in the CEM position, while Lt McLane will slowly
take over the DO duties from Capt Jeff Wilkinson. TSgt Bill Sprake
returned from OEF and then 24 hours later his commander (wife) Jane,
had a baby boy! Bill got home just in time. He’s got the
doing flutter kicks already! New additions to the squadron include TSgt
Steve Elson from the 24th and SRA Tony Cortese from the 21st.
attending college full-time at the University of Kentucky, as is SSgt
Chris Phebus. Phebus was activated for a few months (he was bored) and
is now almost fully educated with a Bachelors Degree.
SSgt Danny Page
is TDY to the Group, assisting with whatever they throw at him (STARS
appearances too). I’ll go ahead and pitch the 123rd STS to
thinking of becoming a civilian. We have openings on both sides; so
don’t waste those years of active duty. Have the camaraderie
team, but on a part-time basis. Jump, shoot and dive…. and
school, or whatever you want to do. We have world-class facilities and
training opportunities are plentiful. That’s all the news
that’s fit to
print. Blue Skies to all. RA out.
"Losing two members of the same unit is very hard ... a
very deep loss," Capt. Jeff Wilkinson, a special tactics team leader
who served with both men, told the Louisville Courier-Joumal. `The Air
Force and [Air Force Special Operations Command] take a strong stance
in trying to mitigate risk ... but the nature of what we're doing is
Matero and Tracy were special tactics operators in the
small, highly specialized squadron of pararescuemen and combat
controllers based at the Louisville International Airport. Each was
trained to guide aircraft to remote landing strips and to direct air
strikes. Both had previously served in Afghanistan.
Matero had served in the Kentucky Guard for a little
more than a year. Tracy spent six years in the Kentucky Air Guard after
serving for nine years on active duty.
Eulogy for TSgt (Lt
Select) Christopher A. Matero
General Norman Schwarzkopf
“It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle.
a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.” Chris
was one of those men.
Born and raised in upstate
New York, he
was a wrestler and power lifter in high school at Arlington High
School. Intrigued by the Air Force and combat control, he entered
active duty in early 1992. Upon completing the combat control pipeline
he was sent to Little Rock AFB, Arkansas. He excelled and knew that
this was his calling. He loved parachuting, and because of this love,
he met Roneisa.
Shortly after returning
from Africa, Chris and the 123rd
STS were enroute to Afghanistan. There he earned the Bronze
returned home to Louisville safely, but duty called in SOCSOUTH. While
there he realized his dream of becoming an officer, as he was selected
to become the newest Lieutenant in the 123rd STS.
The story of how Chris
and Roneisa met is
legendary. In June of ’93, Chris’s squadron was
scheduled to parachute
at a drop zone next to Little Rock. After a bad landing (that Chris
will never admit to) he injured his ankle. He hobbled over to the
military ambulance providing medical support for that day, and there
Chris saw Senior Airman Roneisa Nicholson. He told me that she looked
like an angel of mercy, and he immediately fell in love.
year later, they were joined in marriage. Soon Brianna was born as
Chris traveled the globe, safely guiding our military aircraft into and
out of hostile areas. It was also at Little Rock that he set a record
unmatched in the special tactics community. While parachuting, Chris
landed on the roof a Wal-Mart. He claims that it was a bad spot!
July of ’97, with a one-week-old son, the Matero family moved
AFB and the exciting city of Fayetteville, NC. He had accepted a
position as an instructor at the Combat Control School, a prestigious
assignment. Chris sought the stability for his family and the chance to
attend college. He had a goal of obtaining a Bachelor’s
once he set his mind to something-it was bound to happen.
became an awesome instructor. He really cared about the students. His
moral compass was rock-solid and he possessed integrity of steel. The
trainees knew that his advice would lead them in the right direction.
He was dedicated to teaching and equipping our future combat
controllers to do their job when bad people are shooting at you, like
the Taliban. Chris was fully committed to molding and making
outstanding airmen. His legacy endures in the classroom and
with men whom he humbled and taught with his example.
was also a committed husband and father. Seeking even more stability
for his family, he left active duty for Louisville and the Air National
Guard. He said that they would never have to move again. The first few
months in Louisville were uneventful. While I was in Bulgaria and Chris
in Morocco, the tragic events of September 11th occurred. Chris knew
that special tactics would be deeply involved in our
country’s new war
We are all diminished when a
man of Chris
Matero’s stature and accomplishments leaves us. None more so
his beloved wife, Roneisa…whom he lovingly referred to as
soul mate. His beautiful children Brianna and Dante. Yet we were
fortunate to have Chris in our midst for so long, to enjoy his company
(like at a Colorado Deer Camp) and benefit from his dedication and
strength of character. Like all who worked closely with him, I admired
Some people live an entire
wonder if they ever made a difference , Chris didn’t have
problem. He was all about courage. The kind that can’t be
predicted, commanded or analyzed…but it damn sure can be
remembered. Hoo Ya.
MSgt Jon Rosa, 123rd STS,
|5/21/2008 - KEESLER
AIR FORCE BASE, MISS. -- At 10 a.m. today,
Keesler dedicates its third new technical training facility to honor a
former Combat Control student who died in a plane crash in the
mountains of Puerto Rico nearly six years ago.
Matero Hall, situated
south of Thomson and Cody Halls, is being named in memory of Tech. Sgt.
Christopher Matero, who graduated from combat control training 15 years
That year, he was on temporary
duty in Morocco on Sept. 11, and soon after he returned, he and his
unit were deployed to Afghanistan, where he earned the Bronze
In 2002, he was called to duty with the Special Operations
Command-South in Puerto Rico. While there, he learned about his
selection for commissioning as an officer.
Aug. 7, 2002, while on a nighttime training flight in support of a
vital classified alert mission, Sergeant Matero and nine comrades were
killed when their MC-130H crashed into a mountainside 15 miles south of
San Juan, Puerto Rico.
In addition to the building's dedication, Sergeant Matero is also
immortalized with the Christopher Matero Communications Award given by
the 342nd TRS to a combat control graduate who demonstrates exemplary
tactical situational awareness in a combat environment.
||His first assignment was with the
314th Combat Control Squadron, Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. Four
years later, he became a master instructor at the 342nd Training
Squadron's combat control school at Pope AFB, N.C.
better serve his students, Sergeant Matero earned a Community College
of the Air Force associate degree in airway science in 1998 and a
bachelor's degree in criminal justice administration from Campbell
University in 2001.
Matero left active duty in 2001 to serve in the 123rd Special Tactics
Squadron, Kentucky National Guard.
|11/1/2008 - KENTUCKY
AIR NATIONAL GUARD, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Tech.
Sgt. Christopher A. Matero, a Kentucky Combat Controller who was killed
in the line of duty, now has a road in his name at Pope Air Force Base,
left, Senior Master Sgt. Tom Deschane, Chief Master Sgt. Jon Rosa,
Master Sgt. Wes Brooks and Capt. Sean McClane stand at Pope Air Force
Base’s Matero Drive.
Drive, named in his honor earlier
this year, is home to a new building for the Air Force Combat Control
School. Before enlisting in the Kentucky Air National
helped mold the next generation
of special tactics warriors for combat against our nation's enemies,"
Colonel Shoop said. "His legacy lives on in those Airmen who now wear
the scarlet beret."
| Guard, Sergeant Matero was an
instructor at the school.
He and eight other Airmen died in a MC-130H crash during a training
flight in Puerto Rico on Aug..7, 2002.
"Chris was an excellent instructor and mentor who embodied all the
qualities we seek in a modern special operations warrior," said Lt.
Col. Jeremy Shoop, commander of Kentucky's 123rd Special Tactics
Chief Master Sgt. Jon Rosa, the unit's superintendent of combat
control, and other Kentucky Airmen were among more than 300 people who
attended a ceremony honoring Sergeant Matero in April.
of his students, now combat-hardened veterans of Operations Enduring
and Iraqi Freedom, told of his exacting standards and high ethics -- and how he
3 July 2003
sorry this is so delayed. I’ve spent a lot of time
thinking about this and have started and restarted numerous
times. I talked to Ronnie one day and said how I wanted to
make it perfect even though perfect is unnecessary. I wanted
to make sure you knew what Chris meant to me. I sent Ronnie a
copy of the speech I gave during the 352 SOG’s celebration of
the AF’s Birthday on 18 Sep 02.
night I was home watching the movie Armageddon in Sep 02. To
me the movie is pretty patriotic and emotional. Tammie and
Meaghan were in the States visiting her family so I was
alone. I knew that our commander wanted someone to speak at
the AF birthday and never really intended to be picked or
selected. But something inside of me said, people needed to
hear what I had to say. I knew a large part of the speech
would center on the theme: “What the AF means to
me;” but knew MO was a big part of that.
took me about 20-30 minutes to write the entire speech. I was
pretty moved and the words came out effortlessly. I spent
some time afterwards tidying it up, but the meat of the speech was on
paper. As I read it and started to practice it, I found
myself crying on numerous occasions. I realized a while ago
that I’m a crier. I cry at patriotic movies or when
I see something sad or whatever, but anything that moves me
inside. And thinking about MO moves me.
lot of people would say that I’m emotionless, but those that
truly know me, know that I’m emotional.
MO’s death has saddened me knowing what a precious family he
has left behind and also a country that is in his debt. Also
I will never again get to share time with him as he was one of the most
precious people I’ve ever met and am privileged to have
I think MO (like most of
us) did the best he could, always wishing we could do more with our
families. I don’t know why we spend so much time a
work, that’s just the way it is. One thing I know
for sure was MO loved his family and would try to find time to be with
I talk about movies a lot
and quote a lot of lines from movies. MO would sing the songs
from Disney movies, because that’s what he watched at
home. He knew practically every movie by heart, I guess
because he watched them a lot with Bri and Dante. MO would
practically always bring his lunch to work, and it was normally a great
looking lunch. Whether it was big sandwiches, some
left over pasta, or sausage and peppers; it was always a great
MO came to the Combat Control School I didn’t know anything
about him; except that he was pretty young, had a family and was
stationed at Little Rock. MO was pretty quiet and reserved as
a matter of course. MO only raised his voice or expressed an
opinion in public when he thought it was truly necessary. MO
truly cared about what he did. He loved CCT, the AF and the
USA. He truly loved his family and would talk about you guys
all the time.
and I had Meaghan late in our marriage compared to when most people
have children so I never could really appreciate what children mean to
a father until I had my own. One time, I don’t know
if you remember, MO and I went to Raleigh to watch a hockey
game. I came over and picked him up and before we left, Dante
started to cry because he didn’t want his Daddy to
leave. My daughter does the same thing now. It
breaks my heart, especially before a long TDY. We went to
Raleigh, watched the game and came home. When I pulled into
the driveway, both Bri and Dante ran out to meet their Daddy.
was a beautiful moment to watch the love of a father and his children
expressed the way you guys did. MO truly loved you guys and I
loved MO because of it. I wish I was like him at that moment,
and am grateful that I have a daughter that loves me so much.
don’t understand what their Dad does for work or
whatever. They don’t have to know and it really
doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that
Dad loves his kids and the kids love Dad. Kids
don’t care if we can jump out of planes or that
we’re good at our job or that we’re cool or what we
do when we’re TDY. All they care about is being
was one of the best troops I’ve ever had. To say
troop means that I was his supervisor, I was his boss. I
didn’t really have to tell MO what to do. MO knew
what to do, because he was so squared away. He was one of the
best in CCT. MO was unlike most guys. He
didn’t have to be told what to do he just did it.
MO and I saw eye to eye on so many things. We used to believe
that if your name ended in a vowel, you were a cut above most
people. Because guys like MO, Lamonica and me all end in a
vowel. So obviously we agreed on most issues. MO
wasn’t as vocal as I was but I knew where he stood on most
knew MO (like most of us) sacrificed a lot of family time for
work. One thing I realize is I have to
make it up to them when I retire.
and I would bring sausage and peppers to the field during the FTX at
CCS. Actually MO is the reason I cook sausage and peppers so
much today. MO and I had the
ability to not say much to each other but knew what the other meant or
was up to. We fed off each other at CCS. Meaning he
would do something and I could naturally pick up where he left off and
continue and vice versa. We could look at each other and know
what the other was thinking without saying a word.
I left CCS I gave 4 guys two books each; one about leadership and one
about management. One of them was MO. I
don’t ever do that to anyone I don’t truly care
about, trust, respect or love as a brother and friend.
There’s a group of guys that I keep in contact with and try
to mentor and nurture even when I’m no longer in their
unit. MO was one of those guys. I tried to be there
for MO, to be an example, like my AF Birthday speech said.
Matero family is always in my thoughts and prayers and I wish the best
for all of you.
I ended the part before this before I went to Operation IRAQI
FREEDOM. I’m back now and want to finish this
letter for you and your family. Once again, I apologize for
the delay, but this was harder than I thought.
our time while deployed on Iraqi Freedom, I had a lot of time to think
about a lot of things. I was also in contact with most of the
career field, since most everyone was over there. We were,
interestingly enough, with the 123 STS. They were attached to
us in Iraq. They all speak of you, your family and
MO. I know they miss you and think about you often.
will never be able to truly understand what you have gone through or
what you’ll go through. I want you guys to know
that you have friends forever in Tammie, Meaghan and me. We
think about you guys a lot.
you go through life, know that Chris Matero was loved and
respected. I can’t say enough about him.
He was a large part of my life (even though most of it was at
work). Your husband and dad was a great American, was great
at his job, but most importantly was a great husband and
hope you read this to Bri and Dante when the time is right and keep it
so they can have when they’re older.
15 August 2003
a year ago your mother asked me to write down my thoughts on your
father so you would have something to reflect on as you grow and have
questions about the type of person he was. I have
found this to be one of the more difficult tasks I have had anyone ask
of me. I feel this way for a couple of reasons, 1) In the
last year since your father passed I have been deployed twice in
support of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, 2) I have not fully
wanted to face the fact that he is gone and 3) It is hard to
sum up all of my feelings and experiences in such a two dimensional
forum as a letter. I could talk to you for days
about the kind of person your father was and not even scratch the
surface, that is the kind of soldier, friend, teacher, motivator,
husband and father he was. I guess I should start off when I
In November 1993 I attended a school run by the Navy SEALs in
Coronado California to refresh my skills to perform combat diver
operations. On the first day of the course each
person attending had to take a physical training test to ensure we were
in top shape for the course. As I looked around the
group of guys, I was sizing each person up as competition (most of us
are very competitive and don't like to come in
second). I figured I was sure bet to beat most of
the guys on the evaluation. When it was said and
done with, I was right, only a couple of guys came in ahead of
me. One of those guys was Chris Matero (your
father). He didn't just beat me; he crushed me,
which is why I automatically took a liking to
him. He was just out of our initial training program
(a two year pipeline of schools designed to push men to their physical
limits). Although he was a relatively new guy he
continually proved himself to be at the top of his class in any given
event. He wasn't just in good shape, but he was also
dedicated to do his best and a skilled diver with an extremely
sarcastic sense of humor. The course was only 2
weeks long, but my short experience with him told me he was an up and
coming performer in a career field made up of the Air Force's best
people. Well we parted ways, but I kept my ear to
the ground to see how he was working out. As I
figured, every time I heard something about him it was reference to how
well he was doing.
We went about 5 years without
seeing each other, but in a community as small as ours it was
inevitable that we would finally link back up and on 1 September 1998
we did just that. I was just accepted to fulfill a position
as an instructor at the Combat Control School on Pope Air Force Base,
North Carolina. When I arrived I had a good friend
(Paul "Vinny" Venturella) who was running the
school. He was my predecessor in charge of the
school, so when I arrived he gave me a rundown of all of the
instructors that would work for me (about 12 of
them). As he went down the list I recognized your
fathers name and asked how he was doing. Vinny told
me that without a doubt your father was his best instructor and
described him as the "total package". This surprised me, not
because I didn't think Chris was squared away, but because instructors
were suppose to be the best of the best and your father was fairly
young so I knew he was being rated against some top notch
guys. Also Vinny was a very harsh judge of character
and rarely thought highly of anyone. Well over the
next four years your father showed me everyday why Vinny considered him
the total package. He grew to be my #1 guy, a great friend
and a confidant who I could trust with anything.
Quite frequently he would out perform all of the students, his fellow
instructors and even me. I am not a great person by
any means, but I expect a great deal out of myself and at every turn of
a new day your father proved to me that I can expect and accomplish
more than I thought. The course we taught was 13
weeks long and was physically and mentally demanding on the students,
which meant it was more demanding on the instructors who expected a lot
from the students. No one expected more than your
father and he backed it up with superior
performance. At the end of each course we would
receive critiques from the students and your father almost always was
voted the best instructor; not to be confused with the nicest
instructor (that was me and he always made fun of me for
About a year into my tour
as the Sergeant in Charge, I was moved to a management position in the
school and we had to pick the person who would take my
place. Vinny and I looked at the people available
and we had some quality people to pick from, some who had more rank
than your father, but there really was little to
discuss. Your father was the man for the
is a pretty big deal in the sense that the military is made up as a
very structured environment where rank has its privileges and placing
someone of lower rank in charge over someone of higher rank is unheard
of, but Chris was just that good. Your father was
coming up on his time to reenlist or get out of the military and we
talked a great deal about it. I wanted him to
reenlist and try out for a special unit that only took the best Combat
Controllers out there. I thought he would be a
perfect fit and would excel there. Although he wanted to do
that, he had other ideas.
thing that he loved more than his job was his family. The two of you and your mother
meant more to him than anything in the world and he didn't want to go
to a unit that expected so much of someone when he knew it would pull
him away from his family. He made a bold move; with 10 years
in the military (he could retire at 20 years) he decided to get out so
he could spend more time with all of you. Your
mother had just graduated from Nurse Practitioner school and your
father had just finished his Bachelors degree in Criminal Justice (no
small accomplishment since he was working long hours and he and your
mother were both attending school). With that they
decided to move to Indiana where your mother found work, your father
joined the Air National Guard they bought a house.
father always trying to improve himself decided to apply for a program
that would convert him from an enlisted person to an officer, where he
would eventually be responsible for Commanding a
unit. Not surprising to anyone he was accepted and
was waiting for his time to go to Officer Training School (merely a
formality for someone of his caliber). While he was
waiting our country was devastated by the worst terrorist attack on our
soil in history. Al Qaeda terrorists flew airplanes
into the World Trade center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania
killing thousands of innocent civilians. The world
mourned and the US military prepared to fight a war that it had no idea
how to fight. Your father immediately volunteered to
go. Not knowing how long he would be gone, where he
was going or the type of people he was going up against he was ready to
go. I know it hurt him deeply to leave his family,
but someone had to go and defend America and the ideals we stand for
and he was at the front of the line, a true patriot with great ideals
and values. It was important for him to defend your
future and that is exactly what he did.
was not with him, but I do know that he worked in Northern Afghanistan
helping Special Forces soldiers and Northern Alliance personnel defeat
the Taliban and liberate the Afghani people. After
he returned we talked on the phone and he told me some of what he did
and that he was proud to have served, but was even happier to be home
with the two of you and your mother. Over the next 9
months we kept in contact writing emails back and forth and I was
looking forward to seeing him again so we could have a beer and talk
about our experiences.
July of 2002 I deployed to Bagram Afghanistan (south of where your
father worked) to continue the fight against
terrorism. While I was there I heard of a special
operation aircraft that crashed in Puerto Rico. At
first I didn't think much of it, until I heard there were some Combat
Controllers on it. For the next 3 days I was on the
edge of my seat waiting to hear who was on it. When
word finally came down and I heard Chris Matero's name was on the list,
I felt like I was hit in the chest with a pile of
bricks. This couldn't be! We were supposed to get
together, and tell war stories. I wanted a picture
of us since we had both gone on real world
missions. I wanted to see him at
reunions. He was the type of guy who was supposed to
be around forever. Things like this don't happen to
good soldiers who do all of the right things for the right reasons and
who love their families as much as he did. How are
Ronnie and the kids? Because of my deployment I was
unable to contact your mother for almost 3 months and when I finally
did I felt helpless. What could I do to
help? Well over time I realized he would be around
as long as I have memories of him and can tell them.
Vinny and I get together we talk about your father and remember the
type of man he was. On September 19th 2003 we will
place your fathers name on the memorial at the Combat Control School in
North Carolina and his teammates will have the opportunity to wish
their final farewells to a great soldier, friend, teacher, motivator,
husband and father. Please know that I will never
forget the kind of person you father was, he continues to inspire me
everyday and if there is ever anything I can do for you, I will always
be available (your mother and I stay in contact through phone calls and
email) please call anytime. I am honored to be here