Thousands gather for memorial to airmen killed in mission


April 6, 2005 -- ROYAL AIR FORCE STATION MILDENHALL, England -- Capt. Gil C. Williamson of Dike was remembered Wednesday as "a hard charger" and "always ready for a line dance" in a memorial service at a U.S. Air Force base in England, six days after a military aircraft crash in Albania killed Williamson and eight other airmen.

The Korean-born Williamson is survived by his mother, Chong, stepfather Allen and brother, Sgt. Kyun Pak.

The 31-year-old was an electronic warfare officer with the 7th Special Operations Squadron, 352nd Special Operations Group, based at RAF Mildenhall. He and the other members of the specially-outfitted C-130 aircraft that crashed had arrived in Albania on March 28 as part of a 115-member contingent for two weeks of joint training with the Albanian military.

The training flight, referred to by its call sign Wrath 11, was flying late at night in a mountainous area of Albania. Reports from Albania suggest that the weather was poor at the time of the accident, which is under investigation.

About 3,000 men, women and children attended the standing-room only memorial service in an aircraft hangar at Mildenhall.

"These men made a difference," said Lt. Col. Patrick Dean, commander of the 7th Special Operations Squadron. "Look around you in this hangar -- these men made a difference."

Unit members said that Williamson would be remembered for always being the first volunteer, taking on any task, his affable nature and his love of country music.

Williamson and the other airmen on board the doomed flight have been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal posthumously by President Bush. The 352nd's units have contributed to military and humanitarian action in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and various African countries.

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