|On Memorial Day,
Linda Crate of Spanaway received the news every military mother dreads.
Her only child, Staff
Sgt. Casey Crate, 26, had been killed in an air crash northwest of
"What an appropriate
day," Linda Crate said. "If it happens, what a great tribute. That's
how I look at it. I know he is with God and in a safe place."
The Defense Department
yesterday made public the deaths of Crate and three other airmen who
died in the crash Monday: Maj. William Downs, 40, of Winchester, Va.;
Capt. Jeremy Fresques, 26, of Clarkdale, Ariz.; Capt. Derek Argel, 28,
of Lompoc, Calif.
All were assigned to
Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field in Florida.
Crate grew up in
Spanaway, Pierce County, and graduated from Spanaway Lake High School
enrolled in Pierce College but didn't take his studies seriously, his
"I gave him four
options," she said. "Get the grades up to go to WSU, go to trade school
or flip hamburgers for a living for the rest of your life."
Crate chose his mother's
fourth option: military service.
He joined the Air Force and
worked in avionics, which he found uninteresting.
He then applied to be a
combat controller, an elite airman who sets up airfields and targets
airstrikes in enemy territory.
"I said, 'Are you sure?
You don't have to do this.' He said, 'I want to do this,' " Linda Crate
said. "We were all very proud of him, and he was very proud of himself."
Last Christmas, he presented
his mother with a special gift: a new 2005 Honda Civic.
|Last Christmas, Casey Crate scooped his mother off her
chair, took her outside and plopped her in front of her gift: A brand
new Honda Civic. "He said, 'There you go, Mom, you've got a new car.
That's from your little Sonny,'" Linda Crate said. "That's what I used
to call him, Sonny." Crate, 26, of Spanaway, Wash., was killed May 30
in a crash of his surveillance plane about 80 miles northeast of
Baghdad. He was based at Hurlburt Field. Crate was raised by a single
mother and was teased by cousins for being such an attentive son when
he chopped wood for her to heat the home. He attended Pierce College
for two years, but didn't take his studies seriously. "I gave him four
options," his mother said. "Get the grades up to go to (Washington
State Univesity), go to trade school, or flip hamburgers for a living
for the rest of your life." Crate chose his mother's fourth option:
military service. He enlisted in the Air Force in 1998, and never
regretted it. He was never able to say much about his
special-operations work, but his mother heard from commanders after his
death. "They told me they used to call him the 'mission hound.' He
always took responsibility," she said.
"He was a wonderful son,"
Crate had been overseas
since February and was set to return home this month, perhaps in time
for his 27th birthday June 5.
He was flying aboard a
single-engine, prop-driven Comp Air 7SL piloted by an Iraqi Air Force
member when it crashed.
According to Air Force
Times, the plane, which can hold as many as six people, left Kirkuk Air
Base on a mission about 10 a.m.
Two hours later, an Iraqi
civilian reported the crash to military authorities.
The plane went down near the
village of Jalula, about 80 miles northeast of Baghdad. The aircraft's
primary mission is reconnaissance and airlifting personnel, but Linda
Crate said the military did not tell her what kind of mission her son
was on when he died.
His body will be returned to
Dover Air Force Base in Delaware tomorrow, and the family will schedule
a memorial at McChord Air Force Base within the next week or so.
Although she never got the
chance to say goodbye, she said her son is not far away.
"I had a talk with him
today, and he wants me to be strong."
Scott Rukke 12/25/05: God bless every
one of you. You are all American heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice
so that we may all live in freedom. May your memories live in all of
our hearts forever. To Casey, my beloved nephew: You were so young but
in your time you lived a hundred of my lifetimes. You paid the ultimate
sacrifice even though you did not even have to work. You had the money
and means and could have just sat back and enjoyed life. Instead you
fought for your country, for all of us. We're so proud of you. You have
changed my life for you are in my thoughts and dreams every day. No
longer do I just go about my daily life and not think about the
sacrifices that all of you have given. I will never forget that fateful
phone call on Memorial Day 2005. The phone call that changed so many of
us, especially you Linda. Linda your strength has been an inspiration
and an amazing grace. Casey you were an amazing person and I thank god
that I had the honor of being your uncle. The pain my sister feels we
all feel but then again we talk to you every day and you comfort us
with your wisdom. May the skies be blue, the grass green and the water
clear forever ....................
HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AFPN) -- Members
of the 720th Special Tactics Group dedicated a
state-of-the-art training center and an adjacent roadway here May 30 in
honor of four air commandos killed in the line of duty in recent
An Iraqi Air Force SL7 light aircraft crashed May 30, 2005, about 80
miles northeast of Baghdad, Iraq, killing Staff Sgt. Casey Crate, Capt.
Derek Argel and Capt. Jeremy Fresques.
Maj. Brian Downs from another Hurlburt Field unit, the 6th Special
Operations Squadron, and an Iraqi pilot were also killed in that crash.
tactics Airmen fast rope from an MH-53 Pave Low to deliver the colors
at the dedication of the Crate Special Tactics Advanced Skills Training
Center May 30 at Hurlburt Field, Fla. The center was dedicated in honor
of Staff Sgt. Casey Crate, a Combat Controller from the 23rd Special
Tactics Squadron who perished during an operational mission in Iraq in
two years after the crash, a team of special tactics operators
fast-roped from an MH-53 helicopter with a U.S. flag to hoist above a
new training facility that will enshrine the names of their fallen
$7.8 million, 50,000 square foot Crate Advanced Skills Training Center
was formally dedicated to Sergeant Crate. The center's auditorium was
dedicated to Captain Fresques and the aquatics facility to Captain
street adjacent to the facility was named Servais Way, in honor of
Senior Airman Adam Servais who was killed Aug. 19, 2006, while engaged
with enemy fighters in southern Afghanistan.
Servais, mother of Senior Airman Adam Servais, a fallen Air Force
combat controller, embraces Lt. Col. Eric Ray during a street-naming
ceremony May 30 at Hurlburt Field, Fla. Airman Servais' father, Peter,
looks on. Airman Servais was killed in a firefight in Afghanistan in
August 2006. Colonel Ray is the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron commander.
means a lot to us that the street is forever named after Adam," said
his mother, Sue Servais of Onalaska, Wis. "When you go through this
grief and loss, sometimes you want the world to stop just for you, but
everybody's lives go on. This is a way to keep his memory alive."
The keynote speaker for the
dedication ceremony was Dr. James G. Roche, the 20th secretary of the
Crate, Airman Servais and Captains Argel and Fresques were among the
first graduates of the relatively new concept of training called
Advanced Skills Training.
|"Today is a bittersweet day," he
said, addressing a crowd that included several close relatives and
surviving spouses of the honored fallen. "We can laugh but we can also
have some fond memories, and we can reminisce."
Dr. Roche spoke about the imperative this country is faced with to
defend the idea of democracy from those who would seek to destroy it.
Bastain, the mother of Capt. Derek Argel, a fallen Air Force special
tactics officer, takes an impromptu dive into the pool at the aquatics
training facility dedicated in Captain Argel's memory May 30 at
Hurlburt Field, Fla. Captain Argel, who died in the crash of an Iraqi
air force aircraft on Memorial Day 2005, was captain of the water polo
team while a cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
"The Advanced Skills Training
Center is an investment this country has made and I have no qualm in
pointing out it is an investment in democracy, because the first of
those who wish to harm us will feel the brunt of those who are trained
here," he said.
results were also felt in other ways. Manning at operational units
began to climb and lessons learned from combat were immediately
incorporated into training plans without being scrutinized in months of
meetings and staff coordination, Colonel Stratton said.
||The AST concept was born of necessity
when the special tactics career fields were experiencing severe manning
shortages and training deficiencies in 1999, said Col. Marc Stratton,
the 720th STG commander.
Fresques (left) and Linda Crate reflect after cutting the ribbon
dedicating the Crate Special Tactics Advanced Skills Training Center
May 30 at Hurlburt Field, Fla. Ms. Crate's son, Staff Sgt. Casey Crate,
and Ms. Fresques' husband, Capt. Jeremy Fresques, were special tactics
Airmen who died in Iraq on Memorial Day 2005. They are escorted by
Staff Sgt. Jason Payne, a special tactics advanced skills instructor.
The center will provide advanced operational training to new special
"That year our pipeline graduated
seven combat controllers. Manning at operational units was at 40
percent. The influx of new personnel was not keeping pace with those
retiring or separating. Those entering the pipeline had an eight
percent success rate," Colonel Stratton said. "In short, the career
fields were in a death spiral."
Leadership in the
special tactics community took immediate action to address the manpower
shortage and brought their suggested changes to Air Force
officials. Senior Air Force leaders, especially Dr. Roche, agreed and
made special tactics a high priority.
The new year-long
finishing school initially faced obstinate organizational resistance,
Colonel Stratton said. Critics were silenced when AST graduates were
thrust immediately into combat following the Sept. 11 attacks and
battlefield commanders praised their performance.
The Crate Advanced Skills Training
Center is expected to continue to improve the process of filling the
ranks of special tactics squadrons with superbly trained Battlefield
Cadre and mentors expect to broaden the minds of young special tactics
operators in the Fresques Auditorium and push the limits of their
physical endurance as they run on Servais Way and train in the Argel
Here to view a slide show of Casey and Adam Servais in training to be
Special Tactics Group was tasked with conducting a Helicopter Landing Zone survey at
the Pentagon. TSgt Kenneth Huhman and myself (MSgt Michael Stockdale)
were sent to conduct the survey. We were both instructors of Casey's
during his year at Advanced Skills Training where he graduated from AST Team 10
along with Adam Servais. The HLZ will be utilized for the unveiling of
the Air Force Memorial structure located in the nation's capital. Just
after conducting the survey Ken and myself took the Metro to Arlington where we visited John Chapman,
Scott Sather, Derek Argel, Jeremy Fresques, and Casey. As we were
visiting Ken Huhman brought up the idea that how fitting it would be to name
the HLZ utilized for Air Force rotary wing aircraft during an Air Force
Memorial dedication after one of our fallen brothers. We decided to name
it Crate HLZ in honor of Casey. We truly had complete joy training him and
benefited from his infectious great personality.
Linda we love you and you are in our
Take care, Mike
|Building Dedication Honors Fallen Warrior
||5/8/2009 - Lt.
Col. Brett Nelson, 23rd Special Tactics Squadron commander, receives a flag
from Staff Sgt. Theresa Wilson, Supply Technician, 1st Expeditionary Special
Operations Maintenance Squadron, at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, May 1.
flag was lowered during a building dedication ceremony for Staff Sgt. Casey
Crate, a Combat Controller who was killed on May 30, 2005, in central Iraq. The
flag was folded by members of the 1st Special Operations Maintenance Squadron.
flag will be flown back to the United States and given to Sergeant Crate's