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NEWS | April 17, 2023

MC-12W Liberty aircrew honors fellow Airmen who died in 2013 crash

By Matthew McGovern Sixteenth Air Force Public Affairs

Five aircrew aboard an MC-12W Liberty from Will Rogers Air National Guard Base, Oklahoma City, landed at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland March 29 and departed with a piece of equipment from an MC-12W that crashed April 27, 2013, near Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, killing four.   

The Nebula, a specialized device used by tactical support operators, was transferred personally from the Sixteenth Air Force’s history office to the 306th Intelligence Squadron aircrew to be displayed in the unit’s TSO schoolhouse, at Will Rogers ANG base.    

The display will honor Staff Sgt. Richard Dickson, a TSO with the 306th IS who was 1 of 4 Airmen who died in the crash.     

“It’s a sobering experience and a tangible reminder for someone like me,” said Staff Sgt. Waylon Reese, TSO evaluator, from the 306th IS, who was onboard the tribute flight. “It brings to context how serious what we do is and what comes with the mission. Before each of my flights, I talk to my wife for a bit on the phone and we say a prayer together.”

Lt. Col. Robby Trest, MC-12W evaluator pilot, from the 185th Special Operations Squadron, also from Will Rogers ANG Base, volunteered to fly the Nebula back. For him it was personal.  

“I was stationed on Kandahar when the plane went down, so when they asked if anyone would fly (the Nebula) back I was all on board,” Trest said. “Capt. Brandon L. Cyr was one of the deceased pilots and I helped pack up his room after this happened. He was one of my neighbors in the Conex we were living in.

“It’s a somber experience,” Trest said. “It’s hard to believe it has been 10 years since we lost him and I do appreciate being a part of this. I’m glad we have something that can remind us of the cost of doing the business of what we do.”

While the aircrew was at JBSA-Lackland they stopped in the Sixteenth Air Force headquarters building and toured the Numbered Air Force’s award-winning Dennis F. Casey Heritage Center.

"The aircrew were interested in touring the Heritage Center to gain insight on exhibit construction,” said BJ Jones, Sixteenth Air Force historian and museum curator. “Specifically, they sought advice on how to appropriately and respectfully display the Nebula.  I was able to share a few secrets of how to create museum illusions with lighting, textures, and color.  Most importantly we discussed emphasizing the artifact, creating an interesting narrative, and using support items to enhance the visual experience.”
The decision to relocate the Nebula stemmed from the impact it would have on future TSO students in the schoolhouse.  
“When the 306th IS requested the artifact, they presented a compelling argument for transferring it back to the unit,” said Jones. “The historical value to the unit was obvious and it was an easy decision to let it go.  The Nebula belongs at the schoolhouse to teach students about sacrifice and the inherent risks and dangers associated with their specialized careers."
Aside from the Nebula, the display will include some of Dickson’s belongings, a U.S. flag, and a plaque with a narration of the event.

“We want the students to be humbled when they see the display,” said Tech. Sergeant Brandon Hearne, 306th IS TSO mission qualification flight chief.  “We want them to have a respect for the dangers and respect for the previous community of TSOs. I was a previous honor guard at Arlington [National Cemetery] and understand this will paint the picture of sacrifice.”

The MC-12W aircrew, callsign Independence 08, were lost on April 27, 2013:

  • Capt. Brandon L. Cyr, 28, of Woodbridge, Virginia. He was assigned to the 906th Air Refueling Squadron, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.  
  • Capt. Reid K. Nishizuka, 30, of Kailua, Hawaii. He was assigned to the 427th Reconnaissance Squadron, Beale Air Force Base, California.  
  • Staff Sgt. Richard A. Dickson, 24, of Rancho Cordova, California. He was assigned to the 306th Intelligence Squadron, Beale Air Force Base, California. (306th IS moved from Beale Air Force Base to Will Rogers ANG Base in 2017)   
  • Staff Sgt. Daniel N. Fannin, 30, of Morehead, Kentucky. He was assigned to the 552nd Operations Support Squadron, Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.