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Alaska Airmen Remembered in Senate Floor Speech


Begich pays tribute to C-17 crew

Commending them as brave airmen who contributed both to the nation's defense and the well being of Alaska, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich today paid tribute on the Senate floor to the four airmen killed in the crash of a C-17 cargo plane in Anchorage last week.

Displaying a large poster with the airmen's photos, Begich asked the Senate to observe a moment of silence in honor of the fallen Arctic warriors. His speech came the same day hundreds of military members gathered on Elmendorf Air Force Base to honor the four and their families.

"Every Alaskan has been touched by this loss," Begich said. "It is a terrible tragedy for our state, where we consider Alaska's military installations extensions of our communities. Service members are part of our extended Alaskan family."

The senator gave a brief biography of each airman.

"Maj. Aaron Malone was a C-17 pilot on leave from Alaska Airlines, his place of employment, to help stand up the 249th Airlift Squadron in Alaska. Alaska was Major Malone's home state.  In 2008, he transferred to the Alaska National Guard. As a highly regarded airman, he became a C-17 instructor pilot. He proudly served his country for more than 12 years in the Air National Guard. During his time of service, Major Malone flew the F-16 in defense of our airspace after 9/11, deployed to the Korean Peninsula, and flew missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom," Begich said.

"Maj. Michael Freyholtz was a member of the Alaska Air National Guard since 2007, when he left active duty. During his time of service, he flew more than 600 hours of combat service in support of Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. He was recognized for his distinction as a pilot; he was awarded the Air Medal for his service. Originally from Minnesota, Major Freyholtz was the first non-Alaskan pilot to help stand up the 249th Airlift Squadron. A C-17 pilot since obtaining his wings from the Air Force in 2000 and a superior airman, he most recently flew with the Air Force Thunderbirds."

"According to his loved ones, Capt. Jeffery Hill cherished being a part of Alaska's 3rd Wing, to which he was assigned in 2007. With his humor and positive attitude, he was an inspiration to his fellow airmen in the 517th Airlift Squadron as the Operations Flight commander and instructor in the tactical airlift mission. He encouraged his fellow airmen to stay fit. He was a mentor to his fellow comrades. A fitness buff and an outdoorsman, Captain Hill took advantage of all Alaska had to offer - hunting, fishing, camping and hiking," Begich said.

"With over 28 years in the Armed Forces, Senior Master Sergeant Thomas Cicardo was handpicked to be part of the initial personnel to stand up the 249th Airlift Squadron. He was a highly decorated combat veteran with more than 30 awards and decorations. His hometown was Anchorage, and he contributed greatly to the state of Alaska with his service. Sergeant Cicardo was a home-grown hero. During the 11 years he spent in Search and Rescue, he is credited with saving more than 66 lives in Alaska. Helping to stand up the 249th Airlift Squadron, Senior Master Sergeant Cicardo formulated training and evaluation functions in the squadron. Due to his efforts, the squadron received an outstanding rating during the last inspection."

"Every Alaskan is deeply saddened by the loss of these airmen. They are sons, fathers, and brothers. Let us pay tribute to their selfless service and sacrifice to our nation and Alaska. Their service to our country, and service in Alaska as Arctic Warriors, will always be remembered," Begich concluded.

Begich will also submit statements on each of the airmen into the Congressional Record.

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