Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Air Force 1st Lt. Joel C. Gentz

Remember Our Heroes

Air Force 1st Lt. Joel C. Gentz, 25, of Grass Lake, Mich.

1st Lt Gentz was assigned to the 58th Rescue Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.; died June 9, 2010 near FOB Jackson, Afghanistan, in a HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter crash. Also killed were Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael P. Flores, Air Force Staff Sgt. David C. Smith and Air Force Senior Airman Benjamin D. White.

Statement from the Gentz family:

Air Force First Lieutenant Joel Christopher Gentz was killed in action June 9, 2010 while completing a rescue mission in southern Afghanistan. He was born July 9,1984 in Rochester, New York. The oldest child of Judith and Steven Gentz and brother of Rachel and Jared Gentz, the family has resided in Chelsea, Michigan since 1991.

Joel graduated from Chelsea High School in 2002, participating in cross country, swimming, tennis, percussion, and National Honor Society. Following high school Joel attended Purdue University and graduated with honors in Aerospace Engineering in 2007.

He met wife Kathryn (Sullivan) Gentz while attending Purdue. They were married June 7, 2008 and resided in Albuquerque, New Mexico for a year prior to moving to Nellis Airforce Base Las Vegas, Nevada.

Joel was a Air Force Cadet who was Awarded the Warrior Spirit award all four years as voted by his fellow Air Force ROTC. He was a member of Arnold Air Society and wing commander of his detachment. Joel was a member of the Iron Key and Phi Delta Theta fraternity.

Although received a pilot slot he turned it down because of his desire to become a Combat Rescue Officer to save his fellow service men.

He began the pararescue pipeline training to become a Combat Rescue Officer, which is a grueling 2 year training including HALO, underwater training, medical training, land navigation, and SERE.

Joel loved activity and received his black belt in Tae-kwon-do, participated in marathons and triathlons, and enjoyed hiking with his family and friends. Joel was a person passionate about everything he did. His love for his wife and family and dedication to his work were immeasurable.

Both the Gentz and Sullivan families are immensely proud that Joel died doing what he loved and serving his country. He lived by the motto of the pararescue men “…these things we do, that others may live.”

Friends and family today are mourning the loss of Joel C. Gentz, an elite combat rescue officer in the U.S. Air Force who died Wednesday in helicopter crash in Afghanistan.

Gentz, who lived in Grass Lake, was a 2002 graduate of Chelsea High School and a 2007 graduate from Purdue University. Ronald Mead was Chelsea High School’s principal in 2002 when Gentz graduated and said he was a model student.

“He was just about as good a kid that ever went to Chelsea High School,” Mead said. “He was a real leader, the teachers loved him and he had lots of friends. It’s just a tremendous loss.” Gentz took all the toughest classes and excelled in math and science, Mead said.

Gentz’s younger brother Jared graduated from Chelsea High in 2009.

Joel Gentz also received a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from Purdue University, where he was a member of Iron Key, a senior honorary leadership group at the school in West Lafayette, Ind., spokeswoman Jeanne Norberg said.

Relatives declined comment. Gentz’s parents were in Delaware today awaiting the arrival of his body with full military honors at Dover Air Force Base, the military said.

Gentz and the helicopter crew came under hostile fire that caused the crash Wednesday for which the Taliban claimed responsibility, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

After earning an ACT score in the low 30s — which is a score most students would dream of having, Mead said — Gentz wasn’t satisfied and took the test again, needing a score of 33 to qualify for a better scholarship at Purdue. And on his next try, he got the score he needed and the scholarship, Mead said. Mead said despite all his accolades, Gentz was a quiet and humble kid who was not one to brag.

“He just went about doing the best he could,” he said.Chelsea High School Band Director Rick Catherman said he remembered Gentz as a great drummer in the school’s marching band.

“He worked very hard,” he said. Catherman said he only knew Gentz for a brief time because he began working at the school two years before Gentz graduated. “But he made a real impression on me,” he said.

Air Force 1st Lt. Joel C. Gentz was killed in action on 6/9/10.

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