Derek Argel



In Honor of Derek Argel

Air Force Captain, Combat Controller

Derek Argel was assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, at Hurlburt Field, FL. On May 30, 2005, Derek was killed in the crash of an Iraqi air force aircraft during a training mission in eastern Diyala Province, Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was 28 years old.

Derek loved to be in and around the water—fishing, surfing, swimming, and especially water polo. He was so dedicated to water polo that he started showing up at high school practices as a fifth-grader. When he finally was old enough to attend high school, Derek became the star player and MVP of the water polo team. He worked exceptionally hard to become a star athlete and never took anything for granted.

His love of water polo did not outweigh his love of the armed forces. Derek had a boyhood dream of joining the military. Derek’s grandfather was a career Marine who fought in World War II, and he was exceedingly proud of that. Derek was accepted to the Air Force Academy in 1997. He was so strong and set so many records in training that he had to lug a hunk of driftwood as handicap. He graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2001, and was assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron at Hurlburt Field, FL, after two long years of training to be a Special Tactics Airman.

It was in Florida that Derek met Wendy. The couple married on September 24, 2003, and their son was born a year later.

Derek was soon deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq as a combat controller. Combat controllers are an elite group of special operations Airmen that enable special operations ground forces with air power. There are only about 600 of them in the world, working on dangerous missions with units like the Navy SEALS and Army Rangers. By the end of May 2005, Derek was only a month away from finishing his tour and returning home to his wife and son.

On Memorial Day, May 30, 2005, Derek and his fellow Airman Jeremy Fresques were both promoted to the rank of Captain. However, there was no time for a promotion ceremony, because they had a mission to complete. The two captains weren’t even wearing their new silver bars when they boarded the Iraqi Air Force Comp Air 7SL aircraft along with combat controller Staff Sgt. Casey Crate, to scout potential emergency landing sites. Winds were calm, visibility unrestricted, but the plane mysteriously went down. The cause of the crash is unknown, though it was classified as non-hostile.

Derek is survived by his wife Wendy, his son, his mother Debbie, stepfather Todd and brother John.

Derek Argel’s awards include: the Bronze Star Medal with Valor, the Air Force Achievement Medal, The National Defense Service Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Medal.



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