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NEWS | Oct. 8, 2021

SWTW dedicates new tactical training facility to fallen Special Warfare Airman

By Andrew C. Patterson 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The Special Warfare Training Wing at Joint Base San Antonio dedicated their newest tactical training facility to fallen teammate Maj. Walter David Gray at the JBSA-Chapman Training Annex Oct. 8, 2021. 

”We are honored and touched that the TACP community remembers him in this way,” said Maj. Gray’s oldest daughter, Nyah, when offering remarks about the event. “While we will never forget him or the example he led, it can often feel as if we are the only ones left who do remember.

"The TACP community has been so kind to us; they have put together event after event and have given us every opportunity to learn about the man they knew through the stories spread amongst the brotherhood," she added. "We are ever thankful for their contribution to the continuance of his legacy, and are, once again, honored to be cared for so well.”

Gray, a Tactical Air Control Party air liaison officer, who was assigned to the 13th Air Support Operational Squadron at Fort Carson, Colorado, was killed in action Aug. 8, 2012, during Operation Enduring Freedom. He was killed that day by the second of two suicide bombers in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. After the first blast, Gray and his team rushed to the scene to help when the second blast went off.

"If Dave were sitting here today, he would say this is silly … and would be embarrassed that we are making such a fuss over him," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Matthew McMurtry, 353rd SW Training Squadron commander. "That’s how humble he was. So, in typical TACP fashion, let’s make a big fuss over Dave! Remember him today, celebrate him, and honor the legacy he left within our community!"

The 353rd Special Warfare Training Squadron requested the dedication of the facility and Lt. Gen. Marshall B. Webb, commander of Air Education and Training Command, approved the memorialization of the SWTW Tactical Training Facility, now the Gray Tactical Training Facility in March 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic caused delays in scheduling the ceremony.

"This facility is central to the migration of Special Warfare training to the JBSA-Chapman Training Annex. It’s already used extensively by our TACP candidates," said Col. Mason R. Dula, SWTW commander. "Looking to the near future, it will enable training events for all Special Warfare candidates as our preparatory and assessment and selection courses will shift from JBSA-Lackland to JBSA-Chapman Training Annex."

The outdoor tactical training facility is made up of an athletic field, strength and conditioning areas, sandpits and restrooms. It supports JBSA Special Warfare training, including courses of initial entry, non-prior service enlisted Pararescue, Combat Control, Special Reconnaissance, and Tactical Air Control Party students.

Additionally, it supports the Pararescue Phase II selection course and multiple Special Warfare officer courses to include Air Liaison Officer, Special Tactics Officer, and Combat Rescue Officer courses for themselves and their Guard/Reserve/prior service counterparts.

The wing commander reiterated the importance of honoring the fallen during his remarks.

"Events like these are part of the cultural bedrock of the Special Warfare community. We are committed to honoring our fallen teammates, lost in combat and training," Dula said. "We are convinced the best way to keep them from becoming just pictures on the walls of our buildings, or names etched in stone on unit memorials, is to tell stories to do our best to keep the memories of our teammates alive in our formation."

“While his memory lives on with us, it is an entirely different feeling altogether when others join in on our remembrance,” Nyah said. “No matter the circumstances, it always means the world to us to see that others still care, that they loved him too.

McMurtry, Gray's best friend, spoke of the dedication it takes to become a TACP.

"Most Airmen don’t consider volunteering for TACP and attempting the 106 TACP training days. ’Dave' completed this schoolhouse as an enlisted Airman in 1996, and became an officer, he repeated the schoolhouse and graduated a second time in 2011 with Raptor Zero One," he said. "I’ve served 16 of my 20 years in the Air Force as a TACP, enlisted and officer. Through all the stories and the people that knew Dave, I have yet to hear someone say anything negative about him.  He was the TACP everyone wants to be!"

An Air Force Tactical Air Control Party Airman is part of Air Force Special Warfare which consists of ground combat forces specialized in airpower application across hostile, denied, or diplomatically or politically sensitive environments. Special Warfare members provide global access, precision strike, and personnel recovery capabilities across the spectrum of conflict and the multi-domain battlefield.