Air Force Weather honors, remembers one of their own

  • Published
  • By Ryan Hansen
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs
Air Force Weather Airmen around the world paused to honor, and remember, Capt. Nathan Nylander with a one-minute moment of silence at 9 a.m. on April 26.

Nylander was a weather officer with the 25th Operational Weather Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., who was killed in Afghanistan along with eight others during a shooting at Kabul International Airport on April 27, 2011.

"Capt. Nylander made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and for that we are proud to honor his memory," said Col. Louis Zuccarello, Air Force Weather Agency commander.

Deployed as an advisor to NATO on that fateful day, Nylander was in a nearby conference room when he heard shots being fired. He quickly proceeded into the hallway where he and another officer shot at an Afghan Air Force officer who had just opened fire on U.S. military members and civilians.

Believing the attacker was incapacitated, Nylander began helping the wounded. When the gunman opened fire again, the captain shot at the attacker and was wounded, ultimately losing his life.

Zuccarello joined his fellow Airmen from AFWA in the one-minute moment of silence for Nylander as did Airmen from the 25th OWS, 7th Weather Squadron in Grafenwoehr, Germany, the 19th Expeditionary Weather Squadron at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan and the 23rd Operations Support Squadron weather flight at Moody Air Force Base, Ga.

This event was the brainchild of Staff Sgt. Joseph Shiver, a Battlefield Weather Airmen deployed from Det. 2, 7th WS, to the 82nd Expeditionary Air Support Operations Squadron in Southwest Asia.

"The 82nd EASOS is comprised of both Battlefield Weather Airmen and (Tactical Air Control Party) Airmen," he said. "Being in a more combat-related Air Force specialty code, TACP Airmen honor their fallen very often with events like ruck marches, 24 hour unit running events, 5K and 10K events. Because the Battlefield Weather community is so small, for us to lose one of our own, it hits home for all of us, so I thought it would be appropriate to honor Capt. Nylander in the same fashion that other more combat related AFSC's honor their fallen."

In addition to the one-minute moment of silence held around the world, AFWA Airmen stood guard from 12 a.m. until 11:59 p.m. in front of a battlefield cross located inside their headquarters facility as another way of honoring Nylander's sacrifice and the sacrifices of others who have gone before him.

"I didn't know Capt. Nylander very well, but I do know that he was a consummate professional," said Master Sgt. James Ferguson, 2d Systems Operations Squadron project manager, who served with Nylander in Hawaii and helped organize the memorial at AFWA. "Airmen are alive and with their families today because he had the courage to defend them with his life and that's something that should be remembered and honored."

More than 30 men and women volunteered from AFWA to stand guard in 30 or 60 minute shifts.

"I had the honor to serve with Nate at the 25th OWS for a few months and got to know him well during that time," said Maj. William Ryerson, AFWA A8P models integration chief, who stood guard. "For me, this vigil is a small way to honor his memory and the sacrifices of the Nylander family and to personally reflect on his actions in the face of paying the ultimate price. By doing this, Nate's legacy continues to live in a very positive way."

"I had the wonderful opportunity of working with and for (Capt. Nylander) in Arizona a few years back and I remember how kind he was," said Staff Sgt. Laura Mickus, 2nd Weather Squadron, who volunteered to stand guard. "I wanted to honor him and continue to allow his light to shine. When you get the chance to know someone like him, you want everyone to know him and this was just one way to bring in others so they can feel they got to know him too."

For his sacrifice two years ago, Nylander was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the nation's third-highest award for combat valor. And thanks to the efforts of his fellow Air Force Weather Airmen, his memory will not be forgotten.

"It's been two years since Capt. Nylander's life was taken," Shiver said, "and I know it still prompts a lot of emotion and feelings of personal loss to much of the Air Force Weather community."