AC-130J Ghostrider flyby commemorates 30th anniversary of the shot down of AC-130H Spirit 03, the largest single loss suffered by USAF in Operation Desert Storm

AC-130J Ghostrider flyby commemorates 30th anniversary of the shot down of AC-130H Spirit 03, the largest single loss suffered by USAF in Operation Desert Storm

By Dario Leone
Feb 7 2021
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The AC-130H crew were supporting US Marines during a battle in Khafji, Saudi Arabia.

As the video in this post shows, the 1st Special Operations Wing (SOW) hosted a 30th anniversary remembrance ceremony for the fallen crew of Spirit 03 at the Hurlburt Field Air Park Jan. 29, 2021. Three AC-130J Ghostriders flew over Hurlburt Field during the ceremony.

As told by Staff Sgt. Lynette Rolen and Senior Airman Dennis Spain, 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs, in the article 1st SOW commemorates 30th anniversary of Spirit 03, the 14-person crew’s AC-130H Spectre gunship was shot down by an Iraqi surface-to-air missile while conducting a combat mission during Operation Desert Storm, Jan. 31, 1991.

“It’s like losing a member of your family,” said Retired Chief Master Sgt. Bill Walter, Spectre Association historian with Headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command. “It’s important to let their family members know that they are missed and won’t be forgotten. We never forget.”

The crew were supporting US Marines during a battle in Khafji, Saudi Arabia.

The AC-130H gunship belonged to the 16th Special Operations Squadron.

“Spirit 03, tail number 696567 of the 16th Special Operations Squadron, based at Hurlburt Field, Florida, became the 7th AC-130 aircraft to be lost in combat,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Joseph Megnia, an evaluator combat systems officer with the 73rd Special Operations Squadron. “We continue to reflect on the names of the lost of Spirit 03.”

The incident resulted in the largest single loss suffered by an Air Force unit in Operation Desert Storm.

Hurlburt’s top leadership gathered together, while socially distanced, to commemorate them.

AC-130U Print
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“Circumstances may have left us physically apart, a difficult reminder of the separation from your loved ones you pray could still be here,” said Megnia. “We hope to convey from our military family to yours our everlasting commemoration of their sacrifice and continuing admiration of your strength.”

The crewmembers of Spirit 03:

Maj. Paul Weaver

Capt. Cliff Bland

Capt. Arthur Galvan

Capt. William Grimm

Capt. Dixon Walters

Senior Master Sgt. Paul Buege

Senior Master Sgt. James May

Tech. Sgt. Robert Hodges

Tech Sgt. John Oelschlager

Staff Sgt. John Blessinger

Staff Sgt. Timothy Harrison

Staff Sgt. Damon Kanuha

Staff Sgt. Mark Schmauss

Sergeant Barry Clark

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Miranda Mahoney

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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