146th brings fallen firefighters home for somber ceremony at Los Alamitos JFTB
By Major Kimberly Holman, 146th Airlift Wing
/ Published July 13, 2013
CHANNEL ISLANDS AIR NATIONAL GUARD STATION, Calif. -- The 146th Airlift Wing was honored July 10 with the task of bringing home two of the fallen 19 Hotshot firefighters who died in the line of duty June 30 battling the Yarnell fire near Phoenix. Approved by the Secretary of Defense, the California National Guard requested through the Governor that military aircraft be used for this mission. Appropriately, the MAFFS 4 aircraft and aircrew led by Wing Commander Col. Paul J. Hargrove brought Christopher Mackenzie, age 30, and Kevin Woyjeck, age 21, home to Southern California from Prescott, Ariz.
"We are honored to have been able to do this for our fellow firefighters, and it seemed only appropriate that we offer this," said Hargrove. "We have fought side-by-side with these very brave men and women, and we deeply mourn this tragic loss."
The C130J arrived at Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base, met by hundreds of blue firefighter uniforms standing in formation alongside California National Guardsmen. It was a very silent and somber ceremony as the caskets were escorted from the ramp of the C130 by Honor Guard to the families, loaded into vehicles and driven away. The ceremony procession was led by a Scottish Marching Band and the Southern California Patriot Guard Freedom Riders flanked the pathway lined with thousands of onlookers.
Former 146th Airlift Wing crew chief and flight engineer Clint Mosly was fallen firefighter Kevin Woyjeck's stepbrother, and stood by him on the flight from Prescott to Los Alamitos, walking alongside Kevin's father from the aircraft during the ceremony. Mosly is now a firefighter with Los Angeles County and a Blawhawk pilot with the California Army Guard.
The Yarnell Fire tragedy was the worst wildland firefighting loss in the U.S. since the 1933 Griffith Park Fire in Los Angeles, where 29 firefighters were killed. The biggest loss of firefighters in U.S. history was 343, killed in the 9/11 attack on New York. In 1994, the Storm King Fire near Glenwood Springs, Colo., killed 14 firefighters who were overtaken by an explosion of flames.