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Mustang 22 memorial adds another static display

Date:

Nevada helicopter shot down in southern Afghanistan, killing entire crew nearly 19 years ago

On a late September day almost 19 years ago over southern Afghanistan’s Zabul Province, a Taliban-rocket-propelled grenade zeroed in on the tandem-rotor CH-47D Chinook, plunging the severely damaged helicopter to the mountainous terrain that killed all five onboard.

The helicopter assigned to the D Company, 113th Aviation (Mustangs), led a deliberate assault team in Afghanistan with two other Chinooks, Apaches, and two Blackhawk helicopters. Only nine months before the incident on Sept. 25, 2005, the unit left the Army Aviation Support Facility (AASF) at the Reno-Stead Airport in an unusually heavy snowstorm and spent the next two months of training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, before leaving for Afghanistan.

Retired Chief Warrant Officer 5 Sean Laycox, who also flew the Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan in 2005-2006, has ensured the memory of Mustang 22, the call sign for the downed helicopter, will be part of the new display. 

Laycox said one of the CH-47D helicopters that flew with Bravo Company, 1-189th GSB (Group Support Battalion) Aviation more than a decade ago has been repainted and will become part of the memorial located south of the Army Aviation Support Facility at the Reno-Stead Airport. He said the tail number of the refurbished helicopter, 249, has been replaced with 200, the same number as Mustang 22’s tail number.

From left, Kyle Pellett, Steve Stewart, retired Chief Warrant Officer Sean Laycox, Christie Pierce and Col. Matt Jonkey, state army aviation officer, participate in a groundbreaking ceremony at the Army Aviation Support Facility north of Reno on April 15 to mark the start of construction of the Mustang 22 Chinook Static Display addition to the Mustang 22 Memorial.
Photo by Master Sgt. Erick Studenicka, Nevada Army National Guard
From left, Kyle Pellett, Steve Stewart, retired Chief Warrant Officer Sean Laycox, Christie Pierce and Col. Matt Jonkey, state army aviation officer, participate in a groundbreaking ceremony at the Army Aviation Support Facility north of Reno on April 15 to mark the start of construction of the Mustang 22 Chinook Static Display addition to the Mustang 22 Memorial. Photo by Master Sgt. Erick Studenicka, Nevada Army National Guard.

“It’s really an expansion of the Mustang 22 memorial,” Laycox said in describing the addition of the refurbished Chinook.

A groundbreaking ceremony was conducted on April 15 with Kelly Pellett of Pellett Construction; Steve Stewart, father of Sgt. Patrick Stewart, the flight engineer and one of the guardsmen aboard Mustang 22; Laycox; Christie Pierce, widow of pilot-in-command Chief Warrant Officer 3 John Flynn; and Col. Matt Jonkey, the Nevada Army National Guard’s State Army Aviation officer who also deployed with D Company in 2005.

Laycox said the helicopter was taken out of service because of too many structural defects.

“When the 249 came back and went through reset, the Army found cracks in the forward transmission area and decided not to repair it as the new F model Chinook was set to replace it in a few years,” Laycox pointed out. “Once they (Army) decided the 249 would never fly again, the Nevada Army Guard asked to keep it for a static display sometime in 2013.”

Since that time, both active-duty and retired soldiers and aviators have continued to honor and remember the five guardsmen who perished on that day, first with a memorial that was dedicated in 2015, a decade after the incident,  and now with a static display of a refurbished Chinook that flew seven years later with the Nevada Army National Guard’s 189th GSB Aviation. The Chinook, with the tail number of 249, flew from the airfield at Forward Operating Base Shank, about 75 miles south of the capital city of Kabul.

Three of the deceased aviators came from Oregon, while the other two hailed from Nevada. Flynn came from Reno, and Patrick Stewart lived in Fernley. The other soldiers were Warrant Officer Adrian Stump and Sgt. Tane Baum, both of Pendleton, Ore., and Sgt. Kenneth Ross of Peoria, Ariz. 

While the years passed, the Chinook languished in the unpredictable Nevada weather at the north ramp of the AASF.

“About three years ago, the Mustang 22 Memorial nonprofit (501c3) was asked if we wanted to take on the project as we had done for the Mustang 22 memorial that we dedicated in 2010,” Laycox added. 

Once the group undertook the project, Laycox said they retired the 249 tail number and replaced it with 200 from Mustang 22. 

“We will also have the individual names of the Mustang 22 crew stenciled on the aircraft,” Laycox added.

Over the years, Laycox said the nonprofit fundraising arm of Mustang 22 accumulated thousands of dollars for the project and scholarships for the crew’s surviving dependents. Laycox is a founding member of the Mustang 22 Memorial and serves on the organization’s board. 

Laycox said the Northern Nevada community has generously aided the Mustang 22 fundraising efforts since no taxpayer funds are being used on the project. The foundation raised about $25,000 through numerous fundraisers and dinners, enough to restore Mustang 249. Yet, that left the foundations thousands of dollars short of realizing their dream of honoring their comrades and friends.

Laycox said Pellett Construction is managing the project, and all the subcontractors are donating their labor, materials and expertise. The subcontractors working on the project so far are Reno Tahoe Construction, Northern Nevada Concrete, 3D Concrete, Bragg Crane, BJG Architecture & Engineering, Reno Rock Landscaping, Nucor Rebar Fabrication, Q & D Construction, O & M Steel, Pacific Steel, Quick Space, Copper State Nut & Bolt, Stodtmeister Iron, Copper State Nut & Bolt., Wood Rogers, Inc., and RT Donovan.

Laycox said Reno-based Pellett Construction is donating labor and materials for the project. Once the Chinook is ready to be placed south of the memorial as a static display, Laycox said the helicopter will be referenced as the “Chinook on the Stick.”

The excavation is almost complete, so the repainted and renumbered Chinook will be placed before mid-May. The display will show the newer Chinook in an aft-gear landing position, and the dedication will occur sometime after that.

Once a date has been set for the dedication, Laycox said he will invite the Oregon families to attend the ceremony.

Need to know

To follow the progress on the memorial, go to Mustang 22 Memorial on Facebook or for general information, check out their website, Mustang22memorial.com. For information on donating to the nonprofit organization, send inquiries to [email protected]

Recently repainted and refurbished Nevada Army Guard CH-47D Chinook helicopter Tail No. 200 is set to become the Chinook static display addition to the Mustang 22 Memorial located at 22000 Army Aviation Drive in Reno.
Photo by Master Sgt. Erick Studenicka, Nevada Army National Guard
Recently repainted and refurbished Nevada Army Guard CH-47D Chinook helicopter Tail No. 200 is set to become the Chinook static display addition to the Mustang 22 Memorial located at 22000 Army Aviation Drive in Reno. Photo by Master Sgt. Erick Studenicka, Nevada Army National Guard
Steve Ranson
Steve Ranson
Steve Ranson is Editor Emeritus of the Lahontan Valley News.

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