MARTINSBURG, W.Va. --
A ceremony was held today at the 167th Airlift Wing today to honor the memory of the six men who lost their lives 30 years ago on a training mission known as Decoy 81.
Family, friends and current and former wing members gathered to remember Lt Col. Alfred Steinberger III, Capt. Dallas Adams, Master Sgt. George Griffith, Tech. Sgt. John Funkhouser, Tech. Sgt. James Hinchman and Staff Sgt. Frederic Jones, who their lost their lives on Oct. 7, 1992, in the C-130 E aircraft mishap.
Chief Master Sgt. Mark Synder, the senior enlisted leader of the loadmaster section of the 167th Airlift Squadron, narrated the event. Retired Chaplains, Lt. Col. Dennis Yocum and Col. Joseph Henriques, provided the invocation and benediction, respectively, for the ceremony. Yocum and Henriques both served at the 167th in 1992, providing spiritual care to the families and unit members following the tragedy.
A wreath was placed by the Decoy 81 memorial plaque by members of the 167th Operations Group and the base honor guard performed a flag-folding.
Retired Chief Master Sgt Roland Shambaugh, the former senior enlisted leader of the 167th loadmaster section, said, ““I had the distinct honor and privilege to be flying mates with the men we are honoring here today.”
Shambaugh shared his memories of each crew member.
“Lt. Col. Steinberger was a fine gentleman, man of solid stature and well-seasoned pilot and military leader,” said Shambaugh. “Capt. Dallas Adams was a highly experienced aircraft commander, very competent and very confident.”
Shambaugh said, “Master Sgt. George Griffith, the most highly experienced aviator of the crew, he had a genuine smile and demeanor that put you at ease immediately. Staff Sgt. Tim Hinchman was a highly seasoned aviator. He was a quiet, easygoing type of guy. Tim was well liked by all and worked very hard and flew a lot.”
“Tech. Sgt. John Funkhouser was very easygoing, he was always a pleasure to be around and a pleasure to fly with,” Shambaugh recalled. “Staff Sgt. Fred Jones smiled all the time and blushed a lot. He was very serious, hard-working and patriotic.”
Staff Sgt. George Buckley, a crew chief for the 167th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and grandson of Master Sgt. George Griffith, welcomed the family members of the other crew members and said the ceremony was an important event to honor their loved ones.
“This was a terrible time in our lives, but with that said, so many positive things have stemmed out from these dedicated men who gave their lives to serve,” said Buckley.
Col. Christopher Sigler, the 167th Airlift Wing commander, said he was humbled to speak at the ceremony because he had just joined the unit in 1992 and did not know the crew. Sigler said he was also honored to speak at the ceremony on behalf of the 167th because he has witnessed the resilience and the accomplishments of the wing over the last 30 years.
“Undoubtably, the wing commanders that served with the crewmembers of Decoy 81 set a high standard to help ensure history would not repeat itself,” Sigler said.
Recently a maple tree was planted and beside it a bench was placed to honor the crew of Decoy 81. The tree and bench sit on a hill overlooking the runway and hangars at the 167th Airlift Wing. The granite bench inscription reads: “Dedicated to the aircrew of Decoy 81 who paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving their country October 7, 1992, we remember.”