This has been a rough couple of weeks. A week ago Tuesday, we got word that an F-16CG had crashed in Iraq, and the pilot, Maj Troy Gilbert, was officially listed as "Duty Status – Whereabouts Unknown." As I checked the news this morning, I saw that they’d finally listed him as KIA. I didn’t know Troy very well, I only ran into him a handful of times this past summer at Luke AFB when I was in the TX course. He was Gen Rand’s executive officer or director of staff, something like that. I had to coordinate with him the one time I flew with the General. He was a decent guy and a brother Viper driver, and for those reasons alone we in the F-16 community will miss him. He is survived by his wife and five children.
The big, bad surprise was when I phoned home this morning and my Mom asked "Did you know CPT Travis Patriquin?" I immediately knew what had to have happened. Travis was killed a day and a half ago fighting in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, he was in a HMMWV that was hit by an IED. He is survived by his wife and three children. I confirmed the news via a friend who was close to the scene.
Travis and I were stationed in Friedberg, Germany together, he was S-3 (Operations Plans) and I was the Air Liaison Officer for the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division. Travis had just left Special Forces, and had participated in Operation ANACONDA in Afghanistan in 2002. When I found that out, I mentioned a couple of my buddies had flown missions there; he told me that if I pointed them out to him, they’d never buy drinks as long as he was around.
Travis and I went through several pre-deployment exercises together, including at least one at Hohenfels and one at Grafenwoehr. After talking with him for awhile, we learned that we grew up about two miles away from one another, so there we were in the middle of the training areas in Germany, 5,000 miles from St Louis, talking about our adjoining school districts’ rivalries. He moved over from the S-3 shop before the Hohenfels rotation to take over S-5 (Civil Affairs) from my other buddy Paul M. He stuck with that job downrange. I’ll include some links to various articles about him at the end of the post.
I don’t meet very many people who impress me very much anymore. Travis was one of those few.
Shortly before the brigade departed for Iraq, Travis and I spoke to one another for awhile. The thing I’ll remember most is when he explained that having been special forces, he could ‘Stare down’ almost any other Army officer, especially in an armored unit. He apparently was making it a point to size up everyone else around him when he arrived in Friedberg. He wouldn’t tell everyone what he’d been doing before arriving in Germany, he just liked to keep it his own private secret that he had been special forces, while all the other folks around him were ordinary "Ground-pounders." He said he remembered introducing himself to my deputy "Tank" and me, and asking what we did. He said his ego quickly deflated when he found out Tank and I were fighter pilots!
Travis may not have been a fighter pilot, but he was a warrior of another sort. He may not have had the eyes of a hawk and the reflexes of a cat. But like a fighter pilot, he had the moxie to look for a career path that would intentionally put him into harms’ way a long way from home with only a handful of his buddies to fight their way in and fight their way out, the guts to do it, and the patriotism to love doing it.
Rest well, brothers! You’ve done everything you could for us. I hope to carry the torch as well as you did.
11 Dec 2006 Update: I deleted a link to a news clip from the Chicago Sun and replaced it with one from Stars & Stripes. For any visitors after this date, it will be transparent. New Links: STLtoday.com, good writeup, interview with the family. KSDK, shorter writeup. Randuwa, superb words, thanks! Chicago Tribune, decent writeup.
13 Dec 2006 Update: More for Travis: BLACKFIVE (recommend you scroll down and check out Travis’ PowerPoint show about Ramadi). Michael Fumento (contains some detail of the IED attack). Michelle Malkin (quick photo of Travis’ Desk) See the comments section for this entry, too. Thanks, Daniel and Matthew; you have company in your grief, from Ramadi to Germany to Japan to St Louis; the Good Lord only knows where else!
14 Dec 2006 Update: More on Travis: Cop The Truth, thanks! Shreveport Times (Great city, a bunch of us went there after flying into Barksdale on our T-37 cross-country flight). Patterico’s Pontifications, great stuff, with links to other good milblogs. American Heroes’ Memorial post. DefenseLink. USA Today.
16 Dec 2006 Update: Still more on Travis, it looks like his PowerPoint presentation is catching on in the Blogosphere. There are a lot of track-backs to Patterico and Fumento. One of the sources I read suggested Travis’ vehicle was escorting Lt C
ol (ret) Olliver North and a FoxNews crew. ON Point Blog. MilitaryCity.com. There’s a thread going for him on Lightfighter.net.
17 Dec 2006 Update: The arrival in St Louis. Washington Post. I’m trying to upload the now-famous PowerPoint presentation on this page. More from Michelle Malkin‘s blog, plus Hot Air (mostly a tribute to Maj McClung, but contains some footage of SPC Pomante and Travis.
19 Dec 2006 Update: Patriot Guard Riders: Thanks, true Americans! Never Yet Melted, thanks! Iraq/Afghanistan War Heroes. COL Peter Mansoor (Ready 6 "Ancient") just weighed in on BLACKFIVE, his comment says everything you need to know, and praise from him is indeed high praise.
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