Moment of silence held for 203rd RED HORSE today
on Wednesday, 03 March 2010

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ARLINGTON, Va., (3/3/10) -- A moment of silence will be observed today by the 203rd RED HORSE Squadron of the Virginia Air National Guard to honor the lives of 18 unit members and three Florida Army Guard aviators, who perished in a military transport crash nine years ago.

A memorial ceremony is being planned for the unit's next drill on March 21.

The 18 engineers and three Florida aviators from Detachment 1 of the 171st Aviation Battalion, were killed on March 3, 2001, as the 203rd members were returning home after completing a two-week, military construction project at Hurlburt Field, Fla. The C-23 Sherpa they were flying in crashed in a cotton field near Unadilla, Ga.

The C-23 crash was the worst peacetime aviation disaster in the history of the National Guard, and the worst loss of life in the Virginia National Guard since World War II, said Guard officials.

Less than a year after the crash, a memorial with a reflection or meditation garden complete with the unit’s mascot - a life-size, rearing red horse was dedicated by the state. The 30,000-square-foot memorial also includes a large bronze Minuteman statue rising up from a clear pool in front of a waterfall, and a second red horse.

The second horse kneels in front of a memorial -- a 7,000-pound, black granite boulder -- with the names of the 21 National Guard men etched into its one polished surface.

Retired Maj. Gen. Paul A. Weaver Jr., who was the director of the Air National Guard, described the monument as a “living memorial to our kinsmen, who made the supreme sacrifice.”

The memorial incorporates ideas from several 203rd members and used a range of the construction skills found in RED HORSE units. Members of the 203rd, assisted by RED HORSE units from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Washington, Montana and Texas, built most of the memorial.

RED HORSE units are a rapid-response, Air Force civil engineering force capable of doing airfield runway repair, performing the full range of construction activities, and setting up operational military bases in undeveloped areas.

(Maj. Debbie Magaldi of the Virginia National Guard contributed to this report.)

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Last update: Wednesday, 03 March 2010

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