TSgt. Mark A. Smith, 30, a flight engineer with the 33rd Rescue Squadron at Kadena AB, Japan, died last week when his HH-60 Pave Hawk rescue helicopter crashed in Okinawa’s Central Training Area, announced Kadena officials. “Smitty was a total professional and true warrior,” said Lt. Col. Pedro Ortiz, 33rd RQS commander, in the base’s Aug. 10 release. “He led by example and was wise beyond his young age of 30,” said Ortiz.
Smith, a 13-year airman, was a native of Bakersfield, Calif. He joined the Air Force in July 2000 after graduating high school, states the release. He arrived at Kadena in the fall of 2011, subsequently deploying twice to Afghanistan where he participated in “numerous” life-saving rescue missions, according to the release.
“Team Kadena has lost a hero,” said Brig. Gen. James Hecker, Kadena’s 18th Wing commander. “Our hearts are with Smitty’s family, friends, and loved ones,” he said. Emergency responders rescued the three other airmen involved in the Aug. 5 mishap; they received medical care. The cause of the crash is under investigation.