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Drop zone named after Kentucky loadmaster

Nancy Kursewicz, sister of Master Sgt. John Medley, receives an American flag at the ceremony commemorating the naming of a drop zone at Fort Knox, Ky., Sept. 14, 2010.  Master Sergeant Medley, 123d loadmaster, who died in a crash during a training flight on Feb. 6, 1992.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Nancy Kursewicz, sister of Master Sgt. John Medley, receives an American flag at the ceremony commemorating the naming of a drop zone at Fort Knox, Ky., Sept. 14, 2010. Master Sergeant Medley, 123d loadmaster, who died in a crash during a training flight on Feb. 6, 1992. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Kentucky Airmen, family, and friends gathered at Fort Knox, Ky., Sept. 14, to honor one of their own who died in the line of duty nearly two decades ago.

While past mentions of Master Sgt. John Medley, a loadmaster, often harkened to one of the greatest tragedies in Kentucky Air National Guard history, this day they honored him by naming a drop zone in his honor.

"It means a lot to the family it means a lot to all of us to think that 18 years later they still remember him and think of him the way that we do. It's very special," said Nancy Kursewicz, sister of the sergeant who died in a crash on Feb. 6, 1992. "The guard was really important to [John]."

Planning on the drop zone began around a year ago, said Maj. Randall Hood, an instructor pilot with the 123d Airlift Wing who helped establish the drop zone. An Army brigade combat team commander at the fort asked the Air National Guard to help design a drop site that would help his soldiers meet requirements demanding them to see different types of drops.

In addition to helping Soldiers meet one of their requirements, the major saw an opportunity to enhance training opportunities for Kentucky aircrews. With their closest drop zone at Camp Atterbury, Ind., a second site down the road would give the wing an even more convenient alternate for joint training and in cases where weather in Indiana would impede operations.

The Fort Knox airfield and paved roads nearby the DZ make it an even more ideal site for Soldiers and Airmen.

A former loadmaster who knew Sergeant Medley personally, Major Hood said two names came to mind as plans for the drop zone fell into place. He thought of Sergeant Medley and Master Sgt. William Hawkins, the enlisted men who died in the same crash.

According to Brig. Gen. Michael J. Dornbush, Chief of Staff, Headquarters, Kentucky Air National Guard, the naming of the drop zone and the plaque commemorating the names of the aircrew who died in the crash represents the enduring respect and legacy a new generation of guard members have for their forbearers.

"John was a passionate Airman," he said. "He was the perfect example of the heart and soul of what we do."

According to the general, his attitude about his "part time" military career was an example ahead of its time, as traditional Airmen are being asked to do more and more as part of an ever-increasing operations tempo today.

"Because of John's passion for his career, his dedication, commitment and professionalism, we are here today. All of the men who died that day were professional Airmen," said General Dornbush.

Altogether, five Airmen were killed in the crash in Evansville, Ind., when their C-130B struck a motel and restaurant, killing 11 civilians.

"Any time a plane was going to take off, he wanted to be on it," recalled Tony Medley, brother of the fallen. "The day of the event he wasn't even supposed to be on that plane. But they needed somebody and he went. That's just the kind of person he was."