Saturday, September 15, 2018

Who They Are, Part III

Left to right: Lieutenant Nate Poloski, USN, died 12 Sep 2014. Major Taj Sareen, USMC, died 24 Oct 2015. Captain Jeff Kuss, USMC, died 02 Jun 2016.
The most heart-stopping phrase that anyone in aviation can hear is...

An aircraft is down.

I have heard that phrase too many times since the beginning of 2006, which was the year The WSO was commissioned and headed off to Pensacola to earn her wings of gold. Five times that phrase made my blood run cold, sucked the very air from my lungs, and took all rational thought away.

The first time was the morning of the 7th of March in 2012. I went to my favorite blog and saw...


Yup, that's in the archives of Lex's old place.

The second time was a month later, which at the time I only touched briefly upon here. Coming a month after Lex's crash, with my youngest back in the cockpit, it was something I couldn't even think about at the time. Since then, well, it all comes back -
I was driving back from the base, I may have gone down there to get a haircut, might have been a trip to buy cigarettes, a nasty habit I managed to kick later that year, might have been a two-fer, cigs and a haircut. Anyhoo, Big Girl and I were motoring down Burma Road (those who know, know) when my cell phone rang. It was The Missus Herself.

"Hi babe, what's up?"

After a brief silence I heard, "There's been a crash in Virginia Beach... it's VFA-106."

Dear God, I almost swerved off the road, but I managed to pull over and park. Tears were threatening, was
The WSO flying, who was it, oh no. For you see, the youngest was assigned to VFA-106, getting back into the cockpit after maternity leave.

"Erika wasn't flying today. I don't know the details yet." Was the second thing out of my wife's mouth, which probably should have been the first thing, but...

After staring out at Narragansett Bay for a very long few minutes, I got back on the road and went home. Wondering, do I know them, was anyone hurt - that was a very long 15 minute drive.

We later learned that both crewmen (it was a two seater, F/A-18D) survived, no one on the ground was hurt but dontcha know the jet came down in an apartment complex on the road we used to take to get to The WSO's and Big Time's apartment? Close, too damned close. (We didn't know either crewman.)
Then, three years in a row. Three jets down, all guys that The WSO and Big Time knew.

LT Nathan Poloski -
A Navy fighter pilot presumed dead after two jets crashed Friday over the Pacific Ocean was identified Sunday as Lt. Nathan Poloski of Lake Arrowhead.
Poloski, 26, was involved in the apparent collision of two F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets from the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson west of Wake Island. After a search, the Navy said Saturday that he was presumed dead. The pilot of the other plane was rescued.
Family members described Poloski as smart, driven and compassionate, with a love of speed, a zest for life and a knack for making personal connections wherever he went.
"Everyone was his friend and everyone thought they were his best friend, even though there were hundreds of them," said his mother, Miriam Kendrick. In high school, for example, he once jumped in front of a football player who was picking on a smaller boy — and the football player respected that so much, he ended up befriending Poloski, Kendrick said.
Born in San Diego on Feb. 6, 1988, Poloski spent his early years living near the Miramar air station. His mother started taking him to Blue Angels air shows before he could walk, starting his lifelong enthusiasm for planes.
Poloski attended elementary school in Texas, then moved back to California, where he graduated from Lake Arrowhead's Rim of the World High School near the top of his class, Kendrick said. She said he couldn't decide whether to become a fighter pilot or a doctor, so he decided to do both: He attended the U.S. Naval Academy, graduating in 2009, and planned to attend medical school after some years in the cockpit.
His high school classmates voted him best dresser, even though not all of his fashions went over well, his mother recalled. Laughing, she described a jacket with a big fur collar that might have been appropriate in New York but earned him quite a bit of teasing in the San Bernardino Mountains. "He had another phase when he was country," Kendrick recalled. "He went to school with the biggest belt buckle you've ever seen in your life."
Poloski also embraced athletics, participating in marathons, weight training, cycling, hiking, surfing, snowboarding, skiing and mud runs, his family said. And he liked fast cars and expensive motorcycles, said his sister, 29-year-old Jacqueline Clements of Austin, Texas.
"He was a good younger brother, but in a way he almost felt like my older brother," Clements said. Her children, ages 2 and 3, looked up to him too — literally as well as figuratively, she said. "Not a day goes by but they see a plane in the sky and they say, 'Is that Uncle Nate?'"
A turning point in Poloski's life came early New Year's Day 2012, when his best friend, fellow Navy pilot David Reis, was killed in a shooting rampage that also took the life of Reis' younger sister.
The loss "made him open his eyes to have no regrets and do what he wanted to do," Clements said.
Last April, Poloski became a member of Strike Fighter Squadron 94, based in Lemoore, Calif.
After Friday's crash, the search for Poloski covered more than 3,000 square miles and involved multiple ships and aircraft as well as satellite imagery, the Navy said, but his remains were not located. The search was called off Saturday.
"Nathan was an outstanding person, naval officer and aviator," Cmdr. Michael Langbehn, commanding officer of Poloski's squadron, said in a statement. "My personal thoughts and prayers are for his family, friends and shipmates as they endure this immeasurable loss."
"When talking about flying, he'd say, 'I can't believe I get paid to do this,'" Kendrick said. "He died doing what he loved." (Source)
Nate's body was never recovered. He rests beneath the waves of the Pacific.

Major Taj Sareen -
An Indian American Marine, from San Diego, California, Maj. Taj Sareen, 34, died Wednesday when the F/A-18C Hornet he was flying crashed near a U.S. base in England. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
Sareen joined the Marine Corps Feb. 13, 2005, and served in Afghanistan in 2010. He was a member of the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232, stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, according to ABC 7 News.
The father of Maj. Sareen told NBC San Diego that his son was a “man among men” who was inspired to become a pilot by the movie “Top Gun.”
Kulbhushan Sareen spoke with NBC 7 Thursday, recalling how his son first spoke about flying the high-powered aircraft after he saw the movie starring actor Tom Cruise as “Maverick.”
“He had enough discipline to achieve it. He went for it,” Kulbhushan Sareen said.
Taj Sareen was even scheduled to attend the Navy’s pilot training center in January, his father said, according to NBC.
Taj Sareen was a pilot with a pilot in Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 232, stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. He was deployed as part of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response Central Command 15.2 and was returning with his squadron after a six-month deployment at the time of the crash.
A native of Hillsborough, California, Taj Sareen was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 and became an instructor at Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT) 101.
Taj Sareen loved living in San Diego and was planning on buying a home in Encinitas when he returned, his family said.
Taj Sareen was on his third deployment when he crashed. His father said his son accomplished everything he set his mind to – so much so, that he grew to look up to his son.
“He lived his life the way he wanted to,” he added. “When he was growing up, he used to watch and observe me. When he grew up he became so good that I started watching and observing him and trying to emulate him,” Kulbhushan Sareen said. (Source)
I met Taj once upon a time. The guy lit up the room when he walked into it, damn, but that one hurt. A lot.

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Jeff Kuss, a native of Durango, Colorado, was a decorated pilot who joined the Blue Angels in 2014. Prior to the Blue Angels, he served in Afghanistan and had accumulated more than 1,400 flight hours and 175 landings on aircraft carriers.
As a child, Kuss dreamed of being a pilot and obtained his pilot’s license before his driver’s license. After graduating from Fort Lewis College, Kuss was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps and reported to Pensacola, Fla. in 2007. He earned his wings of gold in 2009 and later graduated from the Navy Fighter Weapon School, also known as “Top Gun,” in 2012.
While serving in Afghanistan, Kuss earned the Strike Flight Air Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal. In 2014, he joined the U.S. Navy Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron.
On June 2, 2016, at the age of 32, Kuss tragically lost his life when his jet crashed a day before the Great Tennessee Air Show in Smyrna. A Blue Angel F/A-18C Hornet similar to the jet flown by Captain Kuss and on loan from the National Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida will be on permanent display as part of the Captain Jeff Kuss Memorial. He is survived by his wife Christina, children Calvin and Sloane, parents Janet and Michael, and brother Eric. (Source)
Surrounded by Blue Angels, The WSO, Big Time, and two of my granddaughters. Jeff Kuss is second from left.

They all hurt, these three hurt more than most. We knew them, personally.

This post was hard to write, damned dusty in here tonight. Think I'll go have a bit of a weep.


In Memoriam*

* Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif. (Oct. 23, 2002) -- Four F/A-18 “Hornets” fly the "Missing Man" formation in honor of four naval aviators from Strike Fighter Squadron Four One (VFA-41) who are missing and presumed dead, following a mid-air collision while conducting a routine training mission off the California coast on October 18th, 2002. Killed were Lt. Stephen R. Nevarez, 31, New Orleans, La., Weapons Systems Officer, Lt. Joel A. Korkowski, 30, Phoenix, Ariz., Pilot, Lt. Matthew S. Shubzda, 27, Dallas, Texas, Pilot, and Lt. Stephen N. Benson, 26, Virginia Beach, Va., Weapons Systems Officer. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Gregory Badger. (RELEASED)


  1. So many lost in training. One expects it in combat, but few remember training is more deadly, just from number of hours.

    Brave men (and women) lost. We need to do better for them. We need to make sure they have the best equipment. Too many lost from bad O2 generators, bad maintenance, bad design. They deserve it. We should demand it.

    Phone calls. First rule of phone call is always announce the status of the tribe. Then go into the bad news. When I call my mother (not often enough, yes mom) first thing is "Everyone's okay" or "Mrs. Andrew is... " Okay, I'll go call my mother now.

    And... I really do need to dip into the Lex well.

    As to the fallen, they are alive as long as we remember them. Thank you for remembering all these fine, wonderful people.

  2. I'm having a tough time with this one. As you said, it's difficult when you know them. It's tougher when you've been their commander and, indeed, are the Eagle SOF (supervisor of flying) when the call comes in.

    1. I just re-read that post last week or so. No idea how to even handle that. Someone under you. Heavy weighs the crown. The dark side of the Noblesse Oblige that should be part of every officer/NCO towards his/her troops.

      Can't even imagine what dark nightmares that these moments create.

    2. Juvat - I know you've been there, heard from LUSH earlier, this post was tough for her. She knew those guys.

      I remember the post about Rocket. That was gut wrenching to read, can't imagine what it was like to write it, can't even begin to imagine what it must have been like to have lived it.

      Thoughts and prayers brother.

    3. Beans - Never lost one of mine, but we lost a guy in our outfit in Germany. A German kid from "out East." Killed in a car wreck going to see his parents.

      A very somber week in the building, I knew him well. He was a great kid. The Germans do a superb job of remembering their fallen comrades. But, it was devastating for a lot of us.

    4. We had one Lieutenant from the Police Department who was friends with Mrs. Andrew and me, killed by a drunk driver right in front of the University Stadium after a championship game. The drunk tried to run, and tried to weasel out of the charges once caught.

      That was shocking. Snuffed out due to pure stupidity on someone else's part. That hurt. Going to the local Law Enforcement Memorial every year for a few years was hard. Miss him I do. Hate drunks I do.

    5. Bastard drunk got only 10 years, probably out in 5. Even though he had multiple DUIs. Bastard.

    6. Beans @2:36 - Tough to lose a good man to rank stupidity.

    7. Beans @2:38 - Yeah, our criminal "justice" system leaves a lot to be desired at times.

    8. My hatred of drunks is incandescent.

    9. If you amend that to "drunk drivers" then I'm with you.

  3. Fine pilots, all.

    Thanks for the memorial to them.

  4. Good Men are getting increasingly hard to find. Honor upon them.

    1. No, they're not, the Meejah hides them from us, it's what they do. They lie to us and refuse to tell us of the men and women who make this country actually work. Instead they glorify deviants and traitors.

  5. I saw a TV documentary about fighter pilots and one pilot said there had been 20 pilots in his class finishing flight training before going to their squadrons. He claimed 20 years later at a reunion only half were left, the others died in accidents. People sometimes forget just being in the military can be dangerous. Not just pilots but lots of other heavy dangerous equipment is in use on a regular basis.

    1. We lost a maintainer from Offutt during Desert Storm. The pace of operations leaves those guys pretty worn out. Seems he took a nap while waiting for the line truck. He was run over and killed.

      Life is dangerous, but yes, military life is doubly so in peacetime. And wartime? Well, we know the score there.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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