Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael P. Flores

Remember Our Heroes

Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael P. Flores, 31, of San Antonio

SSgt Flores was assigned to the 48th Rescue Squadron, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.; died June 9, 2010 near FOB Jackson, Afghanistan, in a HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter crash. Also killed were Air Force 1st Lt. Joel C. Gentz, Air Force Staff Sgt. David C. Smith and Air Force Senior Airman Benjamin D. White.

My San Antonio writes:

The crash ended a stellar career that began after Flores graduated from high school, where he was on the swim team.

At one time, pararescuers were known as "parajumpers." The name changed, but the "PJ" initials stuck. When he started two years of rigorous PJ training at Lackland AFB, Flores' time as a competitive swimmer may have given him an edge.

On his first day, Flores had to swim 75 feet underwater, run 11/2 miles in less than 10 minutes and 30 seconds, and perform 50 sit-ups in 2 minutes and 50 pushups in 2 minutes. Many wash out of PJ training during the water test.

The standards only became tougher. In 1999, pararescue graduates had to run 6 miles in 45 minutes, swim 21/2 miles in 80 minutes and swim 75-foot laps underwater — six times.

A 1997 Marshall High School graduate, Michael Flores was married and had two children. His wife is also serving in the US Air Force at Davis Monthan.

The helicopter was providing support to British troops at the time of the attack, according to The New York Times. The newspaper, quoting a Taliban spokesman, said insurgents shot down the helicopter over the Sangin district bazaar with a rocket-propelled grenade.

“It’s a big deal every time we lose someone,” Brig. Gen. Frderick B. Hodges, one of the top American commanders in southern Afghanistan, told The Washington Post. “But this is more of a jolt. The medevac crews are some of the bravest people in the world. Just by the nature of what they do, they’re always moving into danger.”

During his career as a pararescueman, Flores, 32, received 12 Air Medals and a Distinguished Flying Cross, according to a press release from the United States Air Force. The DFC is reserved for an airman who has "distinguished himself by heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight."

Thursday would have marked Flores' 12th year of service in the Air Force, according to the release. He was serving with the 48th Rescue Squadron on his eighth deployment.

Tech Sgt. Flores died the same day he and his wife marked their fifth wedding anniversary.

"I'm sad that it happened to him, but if it wasn't his helicopter, it would have been someone else's helicopter and someone else's family and that is something you wouldn't wish upon someone," said his sister in My San Antonio.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael P. Flores was killed in action on 6/9/10.

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