Five years later Airmen remember 9/11

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- September 11, 2001 is a day no American will ever forget. Five years later, flags were flown at half-staff and moments of silence were observed all across the world to commemorate the solemn anniversary.

While silent reflection and renewed mourning for the nearly 3,000 lives lost Sept. 11, 2001 were the norm across the world, Incirlik added another chapter of remembrance to that Tuesday by reminding all Airmen and enemies that five years later mobility is still, as always, in the fight.

"As one part of the whole mobility team deployed in support of the Global War on Terror, the 385th Air Expeditionary Group wanted to remind ourselves and the world of the significance of this day," said Col. Mike Cassidy, 385th Air Expeditionary Group commander, who is deployed here from the 60th Airlift Wing at Travis Air Force Base, Calif. "It is our small way to punctuate the moments when our great nation was attacked."

Airmen with the 385th AEG marked this year's Patriots Day observance with sorties originating from the group's three locations at Incirlik, Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan, and its squadron in Southwest Asia. These sorties commemorated the three attack sites -- New York, Washington and Pennsylvania -- during the terrorist attack on that fateful Tuesday.

"Five years later the shocking realization has yet to fully sink in," said Capt. Carlos E. Berdecia, 385th AEG C-17 pilot, who is deployed here from the 62nd Airlift Squadron at McCord AFB, Wash. "These unfortunate events gave the U.S. an opportunity to unite, from political figures to unsung heroes. It was an honor to be one of the flights representing the squadron in remembrance of 9/11. Our thoughts and prayers are with the friends and families of the victims."

C-17 Globemaster IIIs with the 385th AEG took off at separate times to commemorate the horrific events. All the departure times were set exactly fives years to the date of the attack. The first C-17 took flight at 3:46 p.m., EEST (Turkey time), to commemorate when Flight 11 hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. EDT. The tower collapsed at 9:59 a.m. EDT on that tragic day. The second Globemaster took to the sky at 4:03 p.m., EEST, to commemorate when Flight 175 hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m. EDT. The tower would collapse at 10:29 a.m. EDT. Another C-17 took off at 4:37 p.m., EEST, commemorate when Flight 77 hit the west side of the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. EDT. One hundred and eighty-four Americans died during the attack on the Pentagon.

"It was a great honor to be apart of these flights which commemorated the terrible events of September 11," said Senior Airman Chad Rasmussen, 385th AEG C-17 loadmaster from the 62nd AS at McCord AFB. "Because of those events, I take great pride in getting essential equipment to my brothers in arms downrange in order to fight the war on terrorism so this event does not go without consequence."

The last C-17s took off at 5:03 p.m., EEST, to commemorate Flight 93 that crashed in a Pennsylvania Field. It had 182 seats and was carrying 37 passengers (33 regular passengers and four hijackers) and seven crew members: two pilots, the captain and his first officer, and five flight attendants. One passenger's, Todd Bremer, "Let's Roll" has become a national catchphrase and call to arms, with President Bush himself using it in several speeches.

"It's a great honor to serve with our mobility warriors," said Col. Cassidy. "They are getting the mission done under challenging conditions - day in and day out."

An unnamed world leader said in a recent interview for CNN that "9/11 left us with a deeper sense of loss, a loss of innocence. We are still trying to comprehend how hatred could drive people into a senseless act of violence. It is that loss that we find it hardest to get over with."

"Observances such as the effort of our AEG mission partners here at Incirlik Air Base are a crucial reminder of why we do what we do in support of the Global War on Terrorism," said Col. "Tip" Stinnette, the United States Air Forces in Europe 39th Air Base Wing commander.

As we remember those we lost five years ago and how much the world has changed, Team Incirlik continues to honor their memories everyday by Ensuring Freedom's Future. Five year's later, Airmen are still in the fight and today's remembrance fills them with a renewed sense of purpose.