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380AEW Article

Pay the Rent: A Tribute to the Fallen

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Mya M. Crosby
  • 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
U.S. Airmen from the 380th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron gather every Thursday to show respect to former vehicle operator Airmen at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.

Master Sgt. Jason Napoleoni, 380th ELRS ground transportation superintendent, brought the tradition of four-count push-ups to ADAB from his home unit at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas – a tradition that started at Camp Bullis, Texas back in 2004.

“Personally, when Thursday rolls around it's a time when all of us [vehicle] operators can come together with our brothers and sister within LRS to shake hands, smile, and pay our respects to something that is much larger than us,” said Tech. Sgt. Joseph Sedilko, 380th ELRS NCO of the ground transportation operations center. “Getting together and doing push-ups in 100 degree weather on hot asphalt will bring anyone together.”

Napoleoni and Sedilko are fellow vehicle operators, also known as transporters, who did convoy missions in Iraq together.

The vehicle operators downrange are pressed with heavy tasks, to include circumnavigating a wide range of mileage to deliver personnel and cargo in unknown and dangerous environments.

Between Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM, seven transporters, also known as “2T1” Airmen, lost their lives while downrange. The Airmen all ranged from Airman 1st Class to Captain, all under the age of 28 years old and were mostly killed by improvised explosive device attacks.

“Convoy missions were at its peak,” Napoleoni said. “They were some of the scariest moments in my life, because it's not like how it happens in the movies where the music leads up to the major explosion. It all happens in the blink of an eye and when you least expect it.”

Though they played a crucial element in the mission, some Airmen paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives, leaving an impact on their peers and successors.

The 380th ELRS takes the time every Thursday to make sure that the lives and legacies of the fallen Airmen continue to prevail.

“Esprit de Corps and togetherness in a deployed environment is crucial to making this well-oiled ‘machine’ run,” Napoleoni said. “We are all away from our family and friends back home. While we are here we are a team—better yet—we are a family, and therefore we need to come together and help each other out and uplift each other.”