Not All Fly, But All Fight

Three more Airman serving with my old outfit, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations were killed in Iraq this month.

11/5/2007 – BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq — The names of three Airmen who made the ultimate sacrifice were added to the Fallen Airman Memorial here Nov. 4.

Special Agents Thomas Crowell, David Wieger and Nathan Schuldheiss died of wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device Nov. 1.

“All three were outstanding role models, exceptional warriors and great American patriots who died in a mission directly protecting the Tuskegee Airmen and the Soldiers and civilians stationed at Balad AB and LSA Anaconda,” said Brig. Gen. Burt Field, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander. “All three of them are heroes.”

Brig. Gen. Dana Simmons, Air Force OSI commander, joined General Field in the unveiling of the memorial’s additions. “I am very proud of them,” General Simmons said. “I am very humbled to have served with them and will continue to honor them by continuing the fight on the war on terror.”

He also promised mourners those responsible would be found and brought to justice.

These brave men join four other AFOSI warriors who have given all for their country while serving in Iraq – Special Agent Rick A. Ulbright, Special Agent Daniel J. Kuhlmeier, Special Agent Matthew Joseph Kuglics, and Special Agent Ryan Andrew Balmer.

I was in the same class as General Simmons at the AFOSI Academy and I can only imagine how he feels right now. AFOSI is a relatively small command in the Air Force and no doubt only has a small number of agents stationed in Iraq (again relative to other commands), so I guarantee he personally knew each and every one of these men.

Leadership is a heavy burden to bear and God bless those who take up that responsibility.

As an aside, I blogged about SA Albright on my first blog back in 2004. Since that blog is gone I thought I would re-post what I wrote back then here. It applies to Special Agents Thomas Crowell, David Wieger, Nathan Schuldheiss, Matthew Kuglics and Ryan Balmer as well.

I just finished reading my current issue of the Global Alliance, which is the quarterly publication of the Association of Former OSI Special Agents (I am a former OSI Special Agent), and I was saddened to learn that AFOSI – the Air Force Office of Special Investigations – lost a Special Agent on August 8, 2004 during the Kirkuk AB rocket attack in Iraq. The agent, Rick A. Ulbright, had retired as a Master Sergeant with AFOSI and been accepted back as a civilian agent in 1998. In June 2004, he volunteered for duty in Iraq and was on temporary duty there when he was killed. I also noted that three AFOSI Special Agents were seriously injured in a bombing in Iraq in October, 2004. The agents, Therese Frentze, James Hamilton, and Todd King, are now recuperating from their injuries at military hospitals in the United States.

For those ignorant of all things military (i.e., the media), AFOSI has been the investigative agency for the United States Air Force since 1948. As such, it is tasked to perform major criminal and fraud investigations and to provide counterintelligence and antiterrorism services to Air Force commanders worldwide. When in doubt, just think “FBI of the Air Force,” but much better. Or if you still don’t understand, then just watch the TV show NCIS and imagine it with normal people and not as many fancy gadgets.

And because of this mission, AFOSI agents are deeply involved in the war on terror worldwide, but especially so in Iraq and Afghanistan. AFOSI agents are working closely with the other services gathering threat information, and are providing antiterrorism and force protection services to USAF personnel. They are also working arm in arm with American and foreign intelligence and law enforcement agencies tracking down terrorists and investigating terrorist attacks like the ones that killed and wounded these agents. And I don’t mean sitting at the Air Base drinking coffee and writing reports. These guys and gals are in the field with intelligence and special operations personnel collecting information under combat conditions, as well as providing security details (think Secret Service) for high-ranking Air Force and American civilian personnel in theater. They are where the bullets are flying not to put too fine a point on it.

Anyway, the purpose of this post was not to brag on AFOSI – although it is certainly an agency worth bragging on. In fact, I am not sure I even have a purpose – no pithy line to close with – no moral to the story. I guess all I wanted to do was talk about some brave men and women serving their country and how some of them are giving – have given – so much to that noble cause. And some, like Special Agent Ulbright, have given all.

And I am proud to have served with them.

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8 Comments

  1. My neighbor is leaving for a 6 month tour in Balad right after Christmas…

  2. My thanks to them, to you, and my condolences to the families and friends of these men.

    I like NCIS. The autopsy scenes are more graphic than I need, but I like the show. I don’t quite get what’s different about the characters (other than “Abby,” perhaps) from the “normal people” of AFOSI, but that’s okay. Did you know that the actress who plays Abby really has a degree in criminal forensics, or something like that. My spouse read that on IMDB.

  3. very interesting, but I don’t agree with you
    Idetrorce

  4. I appreciate your notes, but are you aware that OSI has no intention of allowing surviving agents to remain with the organization if they have sustained more than minor injuries? They have already removed two of the three wounded agents from the Green Zone bombin and are in the process of removing the third, despite their ability to still do the job. Therese was forced out emotionally by being told she was taking up a Capt slot by remaining and should leave. Feel free to contact me in regards to details.

  5. I just saw these last two comments. What, exactly do you not agree with, Idetrorce?

    And Better Half, I was unaware of this. It seems ridiculous to move people out who can still do the job, but I don’t know all the details.

  6. AFOSI has *unfortunately* been successful in dismissing ALL its injured agents from their jobs despite the fact they have shown full capabilities at doing their jobs. This atrocious behaviour has been hidden from public scrutiny. Our leaders should be made aware of this information….

  7. Truth is Pain- email me at pheelyne@hotmail.com

    Anyone else who wants to know all the details… feel free to email me as well. We need to stick together on this one. Out of the 5 seriously woulnded agents- 3 have been removed and the last two are on their way to being terminated as well. No one seems to be willing to help get the word out. If anyone knows of a good reporter or ACLU contact, let us know.

    Out of the 22 LEOS lost last year, OSI had 6 of them. We honor them all. They are heroes.

  8. I’m very sorry to hear about the AFOSI guys getting injured and killed,but once again my old buddies are dieing for the Air Force and I don’t hear anything about it. What about the Security Forces team members that died in Iraq the last few years? They are filling the slots for the Marines and Army guys that have been on tour several times already and need a break. I spent 5 years in the Air Force during the Vietnam War and know of many of these guys that were killed on duty. Some of them were dog handlers that had bounties put on them by the enemy. I have yet to hear anything publicly said about their loss. We in the blue suit bleed red just like the Army and Marine Corp. guys,but we get the reputation of being behind the lines and out of harms way conflict after conflict…..


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