(COLORADO SPRINGS) — On Friday, May 5, the United States Airforce Academy (USAFA) will dedicate a memorial sculpture to honor a graduate and his Air Force Special Operations aircrew killed in combat during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
The Class of 1979 will present the sculpture as a gift to the Cadet Wing in honor of the AC-130H Spectre Gunship aircrew.
“They risked it all flying gunship close air support saving marines in contact with the enemy on the ground,” stated retired Col. Michael F. Van Hoomissen, USAFA Class of 1979 President. “We believe their devotion to duty and selfless service to their fellow warriors should be learned and emulated by every airman, especially Air Force Academy graduates.”
On Jan 31, 1991, a heavily armed side-firing gunship was piloted by 1979 Academy graduate Maj. Paul Weaver. Flying under the call sign, Spirit 03, Major Weaver and his aircrew were conducting combat operations to protect American forces during the Battle of Khafji, per USAFA.
The aircraft was downed by an enemy missile that killed all 14 members of the combat aircrew. At the time, the gunship was assigned to the 1st Special Operations Wing, 16th Special Operations Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Florida, said USAFA.
“Our class is proud to honor the superb warrior example set by the Spirit 03 Air Commando crew led by our classmate Maj. PJ Weaver,” said Hoomissen.
An AC-130J Ghostrider gunship from the 16th Special Operations Squadron, now assigned to Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, is scheduled to fly over Friday’s ceremony to salute the Spirit 03 aircrew.
The sculpture has been permanently installed in the Academy Honor Court, making it publically accessible between Arnold Hall and Cadet Chapel.