Three airmen from the 93rd Air Refueling Squadron at Fairchild AFB, Wash., lost their lives in the May 3 crash of a KC-135 tanker near Chon-Aryk, Kyrgyzstan, announced the Defense Department on Sunday. Killed were: Capt. Victoria A. Pinckney, 27, of Palmdale, Calif.; Capt. Mark T. Voss, 27, of Colorado Springs, Colo.; and TSgt. Herman Mackey III, 30, of Bakersfield, Calif., according to the Pentagon’s May 5 release. “These brave airmen leave behind an incredible legacy and show what we all know: that freedom is never free,” states a posting at Fairchild’s Facebook page. “Team Fairchild will do everything we can to support their families and friends during this profoundly difficult time.” The cause of the mishap is under investigation. The crash occurred shortly after takeoff, according to Fairchild officials. The tanker was departing the Transit Center at Manas, which is near Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan. Manas is a major air hub for sustaining coalition operations in Afghanistan.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.