Airman 1st Class Benjamin Gonsier
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs
BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE — The 340th Weapons Squadron held a memorial service honoring four deceased B-52H Stratofortress Weapons School graduates at the base May 26.
Col. Charles Patrum, Maj. Steven Andrews, Lt. Col. Emmet Drumheller and Lt. Col. Christopher Kaiser were honored for their service and sacrifice by the 340th WPS.
“After the death of [Kaiser] in 2011, we got a hold of a repository of contact information of the graduates and notified them that a graduate died,” said Lt. Col. Kurt Schendzielos, 340th WPS commander. “On the day of Kaiser’s funeral, we had a flyover, but didn’t have anything beyond that. After doing more research, we discovered there were three more graduates who have passed away. We wanted to do something that would memorialize the graduates who have fallen.”
During the ceremony, family members and students past and present gathered to pay their respects. The widows of Drumheller and Kaiser unveiled a plaque displaying the names of the four who perished.
The 340th Weapons School B-52 Instructor Course has a total of 322 graduates since its inaugural class in 1990. In order to be honored after death, one must be a graduate in good standing.
“The biggest thing we teach here in the weapons school is how to be a leader and problem solver,” Schendzielos said. “The purpose of the weapons school is to make weapons instructors go forward to their units and raise the capabilities of everyone in that unit. They need to build, teach and lead the people around them.”
Col. Patrick Matthews, 2nd Mission Support Group commander and 340th WPS graduate, had a few words to say about the fallen aviators and had personally known three of the four.
“Each one of them enriched the Air Force and the world around them,” he said. “They are all war veterans who graduated from one of the toughest schools you can go through. The school turned them into great teachers and leaders who set an example for the community.”
The Air Force Weapons Schools give aviators a challenging experience, according Schendzielos. It’s both physically and emotionally demanding for the students, which is why the community is so tight-knit.
“We constantly network with our graduates,” Schendzielos said. “Seeing that we still recognize those who have passed shows the families they are not forgotten and are still part of the Air Force family.”