Scott Sather, Combat Controller Extraordinaire was K.I.A., as the result of an Iraqi ambush in Northern Iraq.

Scott Sather was born June 21st, 1973 in Flint, Michigan. He was raised in Clio, just a few miles north of Flint and attended Clio High School where he graduated in 1991 just months after the first Persian Gulf War came to a close. He enlisted in 1992 as a Combat Controller (CCT), and throughout his years in service he had been stationed in McChord AFB, Washington with the 22nd STS; RAF-Mildenhall and RAF Alconbury, England with the 321st STS, and Lackland AFB, Texas.

His last assignment was with the 24th Special Tactics Squadron – an elite Air Force Special Operations unit assigned to the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) out of Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina. The 24th STS, like it’s Army and Navy JSOC special mission units is a Tier 1 top-priority unit for the Department of Defense whose Combat Controller and Pararescue (PJs) members number just in the double digits.
Scott and his fellow 24th members were routinely assigned to directly support JSOC counter-terrorist operations throughout Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. Scott had previously served in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and the invasion of Iraq in 2003. His last assignment was in March of 2003 as part of the invasion of Iraq. At that time Scott was attached to a team from the 75th Ranger Regimental Reconnaissance Detachment (RRD), serving as a Combat Controller.

Scott and the RRD team was part of a joint and clandestine special operations force led by a squadron (possibly B Squadron) from Delta Force under command of LTC (Ret.) Pete Blaber, and supported by a small element of the 1st Ranger Battalion. The special operations task force objective was to create a ruse to make Saddam Hussein and his top generals believe that the main invasion was coming in from the west of Baghdad rather than where the real attack would come – the south of Iraq. The force of less than a hundred special operators with the help of roughly five tanks from a conventional Army unit were tasked to make the Iraqis believe that an entire armored military division was driving from the west to attack Tikrit – which led Saddam to stay put in Tikrit rather than make the run for Syria. The operation was chronicled in Pete Blaber’s book – The Men, the Mission, and Me.

It was on the drive towards Tikrit somewhere in the deserts of Western Iraq, on the night of April 8th, 2003 that Scott Sather lost his life during a combat operation after eleven years of military service. He was 29 years-old. He was buried two weeks later in Arlington National Cemetery where fellow CCTs and PJs in red and maroon-colored berets, along with a handful of Ranger tan berets in the crowd paid their final respects to their fallen brother.

Arlington National Cemetery was the site for Friday's emotional tribute to a Pope airman killed in combat in Iraq.

Staff Sergeant Scott Sather was killed two weeks ago in Iraq - the first airman killed in the war. The 29-year-old Michigan native earned seven medals, including the bronze star, during his Air Force career.

"Scott's a great American," said Major Robert Armfield. "He was a hard-charging guy. He wanted to be the best at what he did, and that's why he became an Air Force Combat Controller."

Combat Controllers are an elite group of fighters who lead allied aircraft to enemy targets. There are only about 300 controllers, a group that had not suffered a war casualty until last year.

Chaplain Mark Thomas, a Sampson County native grew up near the base, works with the controllers. He also conducted Friday's service.

"What I try to do is focus on the fact of their faith," Thomas said. "I try to help them out with hope."
Thomas said burial services like Friday's are never easy for anyone.

Chaplain Mark Thomas said services like Friday's are always emotional and that his job is to offer hope for the future.

"Seeing children and young brides," he said, "knowing they paid such a sacrifice for our freedoms."

A fellow controller said two deaths in the unit in just more than a year is tough to take.

"All you can think about is what you are in the military for and what you are doing," said Tech Sgt. Westley Brooks, "and that's defending the freedoms we all have."

Thomas' job is to offer hope for the future, even when it seems impossible to reach.

"It's rewarding, in a sense," he said, "knowing we've been able to establish some hope with them that tomorrow will come, and they'll be able to walk through this."
Air Force Lieutenant General Paul V. Hester, above, presents the flag to Melanie Sather,  right, wife of Air Force Staff Sergeant Scott D. Sather, from Clio, Michigan, during his funeral at Arlington National Cemetery outside of Washington Friday, April 25, 2003. The woman at far right is Karin Craft, Sergeant Sather's mother.

26 April 2003:
Courtesy of The Washington Post

The first specks of scarlet at the graveside of Staff Sergeant Scott D. Sather were isolated, nearly lost in the mass of civilians in dark mourning clothes. Then, after everyone else had settled in, the slim men in blue uniforms and dark red berets approached by the dozens, forming a ring of color around the outside of the crowd.

Sather, an Air Force Combat Air Controller, was killed in Iraq on April 8, 2003. Yesterday he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery surrounded by service members wearing berets, the symbols of their elite status. In addition to the scarlet worn by his fellow airmen, there were tan berets on Army Rangers and at least one Army Green Beret in the crowd.

Sather, 29, a native of Clio, Michigan, joined the Air Force in 1992. He soon began training to be a Combat Controller, one of a unit of about 300 who work on the ground near or ahead of front-line combat troops and guide attack planes to nearby targets.

These airmen, whose slogan is "First There," are trained in parachuting, scuba diving and combat survival as well as air traffic control. Retired Staff Sergeant Mike Naylor, who served with Sather in Bosnia, said Sather was drawn to the extreme aspects of the job.

"He wanted to skydive. He wanted to scuba dive. He wanted to be a cowboy," Naylor said after the funeral. "I mean, he wanted to be right up front."

Naylor said Sather, an outstanding athlete in high school, was a fierce competitor. While assigned to Bosnia, Naylor said, their unit was kept on alert and could not stray more than a few minutes from its planes. To pass the time, Naylor said, they would engage in highly competitive games of Ultimate Frisbee.

Sather "was fanatical about it. He didn't want to lose," Naylor said. "Everything that he did was that intense."

There were also lighthearted moments during those long periods of alert: Naylor said that Sather played practical jokes on another airman named Eggers, hiding eggs in his boots, then slipping away.

"Eggers never found out who was doing it," Naylor said.

Sather's service yesterday was the last of a week in which seven casualties of the Iraq war were buried at Arlington. Fifteen have been laid to rest there since April 10. Sather's coffin was positioned in a row of fresh graves at the edge of a field that does not yet have headstones. 

Sather was stationed at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina and married last year, according to published reports. His widow, Melanie, sat with his parents, Karin Craft and Rod Sather, at the grave site.

The service began with a flyover by A-10 attack jets. After remarks by a chaplain, flags were presented to his wife and parents.

At the conclusion, other Combat Controllers -- in distinctive headgear and uniforms, their dress pants stuffed into combat boots -- walked forward, set a coin commemorating their unit on the coffin and saluted.

Major John Koren, a retired Air Force officer who once was Sather's commander, said afterward that the handsome, capable airman stood out even among his elite colleagues.

"When they asked me to put people on tough missions, he was first on my list," Koren said, adding that he could think of no higher praise for a soldier.

"He represented America," Koren said. "He represented you and I. You can't ask for anything better than that."


Click on the casket above for more information and last respects to Scott made available by Johnny Pantages.

 Click on the lone eagle at the top of the page and download a short video sent by Whip Wilson.

The pictures below were provided by Mike Naylor


Camp Sather is a temporary base at Baghdad International Airport. The Air Force's 132-tent Camp Sather lies next to the airport's flight line but inside a larger area that's controlled by the Army. As of August 2003, about 1,300 airmen live and work at Camp Sather, headquarters of the 447th Expeditionary Group. The camp -- named for Air Force Staff Sgt. Scott Sather, a Combat Controller killed in combat April 8 -- is on the west side of Baghdad International Airport. The camp is unique to the Air Force. No planes are based here; those that do arrive are serviced, loaded and sent back out.

Most of the Iraqi Armed Forces personnel and equipment have to transit through Camp Sather on their way to other destinations in the region. The 447th AEG provides security screening, vehicle transport, and passenger services for them. In addition, squadrons here have assisted with force protection, entry control, communications, fuel, medical and supply needs of New Al-Muthana AB.

But there's more to Sather than pallets, people and prisoner movement. Almost daily, there is a VIP on the doorstep. The guest list includes prime ministers, politicians, the secretary of defense, attorney general and secretary of state.

Most VIPs pass through the group's headquarters building. Dubbed the "Glass House" for its ornate rooftop mosaics of mirrors, the building formerly served as Saddam Hussein's personal military terminal.

US Air Force Staff Sgt. Kristina Baker and her dog Rex are members of the first Air Force canine teams deployed to Camp Sather, Baghdad International Airport, Iraq. Rex searches a car carrying equipment to set up a coffee shop at the camp. Staff Sgt. Baker and her dog are deployed from Charleston Air Force Base, SC in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Airmen from the 447th Air Expeditionary Group walk among tents during blackout conditions. After a bombing in nearby Baghdad, the camp located at Baghdad International Airport was bathed in darkness as a force protection measure. Unlike Army camps in the area, all tents and buildings that airmen live or work in at Camp Sather are air-conditioned. Camp Sather also has telephones for stateside calls home and Internet access is readily available and dependable, unlike the Army, where soldiers spend hours waiting for brief calls home or to get online for a few short minutes.

While Army soldiers often travel about in open Humvees, airmen drive air-conditioned SUVs and four-wheel-drive pickups that were shipped here from other Persian Gulf bases. The Air Force also provides airmen a laundry with washers and dryers to clean their uniforms. The Army uses oil pans and buckets. Other amenities at Camp Sather include an air-conditioned chow hall with sinks at the entrance for airmen to wash their hands. The popcorn machine from Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia is installed in Camp Sather's movie theater. Airmen eat MRE's for the most part (Chow hall is open for breakfast and dinner but with duty schedules it is difficult to trade sleep for food sometimes), and try to stay cool.

Unlike most of their Army counterparts, Air Force personnel at Camp Sather are strictly prohibited from leaving the airport. The closest they have gotten to seeing Baghdad is an occasional trip to the Army post on the other side of the airport. The sound of occasional gunfire can be heard in the distance, but the airport's secured perimeter of several miles makes the threat of harm very small.

Civil engineers have replaced over 120 tents at Camp Sather with more modern "Alaska" style tents in a $4 million project. These Alaska tents stay cooler and offer more space.

As of the Fall of 2005 there were about 750 Airmen here.

The squadron and staging facility combined forces to make up the largest Air Force medical squadron in Iraq. Formally known as the Mobile Air Staging Facility, the unit can hold 100 mass casualty victims up to 12 hours. Routinely, it houses 50 beds with surge, which means it can handle well over 50 patients at a time should a crisis occur. Doctors, surgeons, nurse anesthetists, nurses and medical technicians work like a well-oiled machine, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Scott Sather -- Strived for Excellence, Influenced Many            Posted 5/19/2010 

Commentary by Lt. Col. Darrell Judy 32nd Flying Training Squadron commander                                  sent by Joe Edwards

5/19/2010 - VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- During a recent deployment to Baghdad, Iraq, I had the distinct pleasure of serving with some of our finest Airmen helping to bring peace and stability to that country. During my tour, I had many shared experiences and made many friends I won't soon forget.

One experience stood out from the others; one that truly inspired me. This was the dedication of a memorial to Staff Sgt. Scott D. Sather.

You may not know Sergeant Sather, but he holds a significant spot in our military history. He was the first U.S. Air Force Airman killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom. A young man of only 29 years, he served as a special tactics Combat Controller and had seen combat action in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.

His last assignment was with the 24th Special Tactics Squadron. During his time in Iraq he was the sole Combat Control operator working with the 75th Ranger Regiment's elite Residential Reconnaissance Detachment and directly contributed to opening the first of five critical airheads used by the joint task force in the opening days of OIF.

During that tour on April 8, 2003, he was killed by enemy fire in southwestern Iraq. In honor of his sacrifice the military side of Baghdad International Airport is named Sather Air Base.

On a crisp and sunny day in November 2009, the 447th Air Expeditionary Group unveiled a very nice and most appropriate stone memorial in the courtyard to not only recognize Sergeant Sather's sacrifice but to afford Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines the opportunity to read his story.

Pictures sent by Bob Blowers
What was impressive about the memorial was not the detailed work on the stone or the size of the audience that attended to show support, but rather the way in which Sergeant Sather influenced so many people during his service in the Air Force.

Many Airmen and Soldiers who knew Sergeant Sather attended the ceremony that day and reminisced about the great guy he was, not only as a personal friend, but as a professional warrior and exceptional example to all. Sergeant Sather was remembered for the way in which he lived, always with a focused approach to excellence and striving to inspire others to do their best. He had made a huge lasting impression to so many that even six years after his death his memory continues to impact people's lives.

I submit Sergeant Sather did not live his life to be remembered in this way, but it was fitting that it was. Just like thousands of Airmen every day, he lived his life the best he could, embodying the Air Force Core Values and striving to serve his country proudly. It was those attributes and actions that had such a significant and lasting influence on so many. He left a legacy.

Sergeant Sather truly embodied the Air Force Core Values of Integrity, Service and Excellence. By living these values and inspiring others to do the same, his legacy lives on. The lesson I took with me that day is that each of us will have an influence on someone every day.

You don't have to be a supervisor or leader to make a huge difference in people's lives. Any Airman can do it just by striving for excellence and motivating others to do the same. It might only be a small event, but it is likely to leave a lasting impression.

By living our lives like Sergeant Sather lived his, we all can have a positive influence on our family, friends, servicemembers and country.

What Many Find Hard To Remember, I Find So Hard To Forget
This wreath was taken to every single site in Sec 60 forward of about stone 7800 from April to Sept 2013 to capture such a photo for every single family who is out there 10 years from the start of combat coming to 60. I have only one contact relative to Sather who is a fellow with an org (Sentinels of Freedom) have not ever met Sather’s actual folks,-- but I’m guessing that your site may care to display this particular photo… I put all of the albums (row by row) on a FB page I share only with families and unit members.. Sather is in the York’s Original Settler’s album.. *(York side of the field, first row). The inset on the wreath was sanctioned, as was the wreath and the album archiving - by 400 of the neighboring families. The inset is actually the family coin (I minted as my gift to them).. they voted for that to be the inset on this wreath. If you can get this image to the Sather folks, I’ll be pleased. If you care to get in the loop to see the others my FB is Holly AtArlington. (presents as a first and last name)..