Military flight mishaps must lead to tighter safety standards
We join in grief and prayers with the families of the 15 Marines and Navy corpsman who perished when a KC-130 refueling plane exploded and crashed in Mississippi Tuesday.
The flight took off from a Marine Corps air station at Cherry Point, North Carolina, and was en route to transport personnel and equipment to Naval Air Field in El Centro, California, when it burst into flames and crashed to the ground in pieces.
These brave Marines and corpsman, including special operations Marines, didn't stand a chance of surviving such a catastrophic flight failure.
"On behalf of the entire Marine Corps, I want to express my deepest condolences to the families of those killed in the aircraft mishap yesterday afternoon in Mississippi," stated Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller.
The names of the Marines and Navy corpsman weren't immediately released out of respect for the grieving families.
"Please keep the families of our 16 fallen service members in your thoughts and prayers," Neller stated. "Our focus remains on notifying and supporting the families while we conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of this tragedy."
Tragedies like this strike at the very core of every military family's fear, and we trust the military leadership would leave no clue unchecked during their investigations.
These service members volunteered to serve our country, and while they expect their lives would be at risk in hostile environments, the government must ensure they're safe on military planes, aboard ships and on ground transportation.
These tragedies must serve as a catalyst to further review the safety of military equipment and transportation. If planes are old, they should be grounded until they're thoroughly reviewed and determined safe to fly.
The fear of losing a loved one in military service is felt profoundly in Guam, too.
With Guam's high enlistment rate among our youth who volunteer to serve in the Navy, Marines, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard, these recent tragedies offer a chilling reminder that our island and nation have many of our sons, daughters, moms, dads, brothers and sisters risking their lives so the rest of us can go about our day-to-day lives.
Aircraft disasters closer to home
Guam has had its share of military aircraft disasters.
An aborted takeoff of a B-52 bomber exploded at the end of the runway at Andersen Air Force Base on May 19, 2016, and while the crew miraculously escaped serious injuries, the $112 million aircraft was destroyed.
In 2008, another B-52 bomber carrying six crew members crashed about 25 miles off Apra Harbor while the flight was en route for a flyover during that year's July 21 Liberation Day parade. No one survived the crash.
In February 2008, a B-2, called "the Spirit of Kansas," crashed on the runway shortly after takeoff at Andersen, one of the first-ever crashes of a stealth bomber. The crew of the B-2 survived, but the damage was estimated between $1.2 billion and $1.4 billion.
Hopefully, these and other mishaps will further improve the safety checks and standards so that future loss of lives may be avoided.