Why Gander still matters
December 11, 2013
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- It's been nearly 30 years, and the tragedy of Arrow Air Flight 1285, is still fresh in Sandi McCann's mind.
Her son, Sgt. Steven Mullins, was one of the 248 Soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), who was killed when the plane he and his fellow Soldiers were on crashed near Gander, Newfoundland, as they were returning home from their six-month tour as part of the Multinational Force and Observers peacekeeping mission in Sinai, Egypt.
McCann shared her experience about Gander on the 101st Airborne Division's weekly radio program "Rendezvous Radio" Dec. 6, which presented a special two-hour program on the upcoming 28th anniversary of the plane crash.
"I remember attending one of the memorial ceremonies, and one of the Soldiers in his unit asked me if I wanted to see where (Steven's) quarters were instead of attending the luncheon," she said. "He took me and my family to the room where my son would have lived when he returned."
The plane crash was a devastating thing that happened, McCann said, calling in to the radio program from her home in Iowa. Yet she also said she has stayed in contact with the Brigade since 1985, and remembers the support she received from the Brigade and the Division in the aftermath of the tragedy.
"I have been to several of the memorial ceremonies, and they've always been done nicely and caringly," she said.
Current Task Force Sinai-Multinational Force and Observers Commander, Col. Thomas O'Steen, was also a guest on the program, and spoke about the impact the crash continues to have on the MFO mission.
"It's hard not to get emotional about it … it still feels like it was yesterday when it happened," he said.
O'Steen said the MFO will also conduct its own memorial ceremony in Egypt. The MFO is a non-United Nations Peacekeeping force whose mission is to maintain the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel that was forged as part of the signing of the Camp David Peace Accord in 1979.
Thirteen countries including Canada, Australia, and France work alongside the U.S. in enforcing the peace agreement. The Division was among the first U.S. Army units to be deployed to the Sinai Peninsula to monitor over the treaty.
"(The MFO) provides a level of stability in that region that they normally do not have," O'Steen said.
Capt. Jordan Seymour and Capt. Joe Seale of the 2nd BCT, 101st Abn. Div., said Gander's legacy continues to endure and resonate among the Soldiers of the "Strike" Brigade.
"When you walk through the memorial site near Gate 4, you really get to understand its impact," Seymour said.
Seale said questions about Gander are part of the Brigade's Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer of the month boards.
"It adds to the history of our unit and it's something that we should never forget," he said.
A 14-year-old Canadian girl led a drive to collect and donate the trees to the post as a way to remember the Soldiers. Fort Campbell received the 248 small trees from Canada that were planted at the Gander Memorial site on post as a way to remember the lives lost in the crash.
Arrow Air Flight 1285, a civilian aircraft chartered to transport some of the division from peacekeeping duty with the Multinational Force and Observers on the Sinai Peninsula to Fort Campbell, crashed just a short way from Gander International Airport, Gander, Newfoundland killing all eight aircraft crewmembers and 248 U.S. servicemembers.
Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board investigators determined the cause to be from icing. At the time it was 17th most disastrous aviation accident in terms of fatalities. President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy traveled to Fort Campbell to comfort grieving family members.
Fort Campbell will hold its memorial ceremony at 10:30 a.m. Dec. 12. The City of Hopkinsville will also host a Gander Memorial Ceremony at 2 p.m. at the intersection of Pennyrile Parkway and US Hwy 41A.