Selfridge Fighter Ops Building Honors Fallen Airmen

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
Two former Michigan Air National Guardsmen who gave their life while in service to the nation were remembered during a dedication ceremony at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., June 9, 2013.

The 127th Operations Group building on the base was re-dedicated during the ceremony to the memory of Capt. Robert J. Soderberg and Technical Sgt. Andrew R. Shenton who were both killed in separate incidents while serving with the Michigan Air National Guard. The "Ops" Building on the base was given a $6.6 million overhaul over the last year. The original building was built in the early 1980s and was dedicated to Soderberg and Shenton at that time.

Soderberg was an F-100 Super Sabre pilot with the 107th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Selfridge and was flying in a two-ship formation from Selfridge to Colorado on a mission on Feb. 9, 1979. The two aircraft collided in mid-air and Soderberg was killed in the resulting crash. The pilot of the other aircraft was able to eject and parachute to safety.

Shenton was an F-4 Phantom jet engine mechanic with the 127th Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and was deployed with the unit to Gioja Del Colle, Italy, Sept. 25, 1981. During flight operations, the building Shenton and two other Airmen were working in was destroyed in an explosion. The two other Airmen suffered substantial injuries and Shenton was killed in the blast.

"These two men died while performing their military duty in direct service to their nation," said Major Gen. (ret.) Paul A. Pachmara, who, among other duties in his career with the Michigan Air National Guard, is a former commander of the 107tth Fighter Squadron. "It is good that today's young warriors remember and honor those who served before them."

The re-dedication ceremony came several months after the official ribbon cutting and beginning of operations in the building. The re-dedication of the building was scheduled to coincide with the final completion of all construction and related activities at the building. A final brick was symbolically mortared into place in the building's façade to signify the building's final completion.

The dedication was attended by Shenton's two sons, Greg and Terry, who were just entering their teenage years when their father was killed, as well as other family members and former members of the 107th Fighter Squadron and associated units. In addition to Pachmara, Brig. Gen. (ret.) Harold W. Rudolph, who was squadron commander at the time of the Soderberg crash, also attended the ceremony.

The 107th Fighter Squadron is the oldest flying unit assigned to the Michigan Air National Guard, in continuous operation since 1925. Assigned to various types of aircraft and missions over the years, the squadron has been assigned the A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft since 2009. The squadron most recently deployed as a group in 2011-12.

Comprised of approximately 1,600 personnel and flying both the A-10 Thunderbolt II and the KC-135 Stratotanker, the 127th Wing supports Air Mobility Command, Air Combat Command and Air Force Special Operations Command by providing highly-skilled Airmen to missions domestically and overseas. The 127th Wing is the host unit at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, which is also home to units of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection.