By Angela Williams, Army Flier Staff WriterMarch 1, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Mar. 1, 2012) -- Maj. Randell D. Voas lost his life in a CV-22 crash in Afghanistan on April 9, 2010, but his legacy will now continue to influence future Aviators in the Air Force's 23rd Flying Training Squadron at Fort Rucker.
On Feb. 24, the squadron named its new consolidated operations center after Voas who was in the Army for eight years before transitioning to the Air Force where he flew missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and served as an instructor pilot for the 23rd FTS at Fort Rucker.
"I'm challenged to find a better name to put on this building," said Col. James Cardoso, commander of the 58th Special Operations Wing at Kirtland AFB, N.M., during his dedication ceremony address.
All Air Force helicopter pilots start their rotary-wing training with the 23rd FTS at Fort Rucker. "As we teach them the skills, it's appropriate that we also show them what they're going to be a part of," he said, adding that many of the instructors and evaluators currently with the 23rd FTS were trained or mentored by Voas.
He went on to say Voas was a "decorated combat Aviator, a quiet professional and a humble guy" who loved to instruct and pass on the lessons he'd learned during his time on the battlefield.
During the ceremony, much applause was given for each person on a list of honored guests, but the loudest applause was given to the members of the Voas Family. The late major's wife, Jill, and their two children, Maddeline and Mitchell, were there along with several other Family members.
Jo Kallemeyn, the mother of Voas, said the ceremony was "quite an honor for Randy's memory."
"The main thing I want and that our Family wants is that he's not forgotten," she said.
Kallemeyn said her son loved to fly. He was given the Cheney Award in 2003, an annual award given by the Air Force for an act of valor or self-sacrifice in a humanitarian interest, but she said his response was to say he was just doing his job. "But, he did it very well," she added.
"I have learned so much about Randy since this happened. He was my son, and we had good conversations, but I just never really understood the depth of his involvement and what he meant to so many people," she said.
Before moving into the renovated building several weeks ago, the squadron was scattered among two buildings on the main post, and three trailers and an academic building on Cairns Army Airfield. Operations officer Lt. Col. Bill Denehan said the new building has been a "huge" help to the squadron.
"It gets everybody in the same building. It's easier for us to manage, mentor and lead. It has helped us a lot," he said, adding that the consolidated operations center eliminates a lot of wasted time spent driving between the main post and the airfield.
Denehan said the 23rd FTS does helicopter flight school for the Air Force. "It's similar to what the Army does here, except our helicopter pilots come from fixed-wing training first."
All Air Force pilots go through T-6 training first, then they can pick where they want to go next, he said. Options include T-38s, which are fighters; T-1s, which includes tankers and transports, or they can go to helicopters.
Pilots who choose fighters or tankers can train at a number of bases, but all Air Force helicopter pilots will come through the 23rd FTS, he said. The squadron averages about 40 or 45 active duty Air Force personnel, but a number of contractors are also involved in instruction and maintenance.
"It was very important for us to dedicate the building to Randy," Denehan said. "All the helicopter pilots come through here and I think it's important to have a touchstone like what Randy provides. He was a combat veteran and a combat hero."
Lt Col. Stephen Moyes, commander of the 23rd FTS, added that the size of the crowd that attended the ceremony was evidence of the influence Voas had on the Air Force helicopter community. The building's auditorium was full with the crowd spilling out into the lobby beyond.
There are only about 560 helicopter pilots out of about 330,000 Air Force personnel, Moyes said. "We're a very small unit. This is just a testament of the kind of guy Randy was."