Deployed 105 SFS remembers Dominguez, serve during 9/11 anniversary
Tech. Sgt. Christopher Drews, 755th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron 2nd in charge quick-reaction team 4, Tech. Sgt. Michael Pacenza, 755 ESFS Reaper 7 squad leader, Master Sgt. Anthony Kavouras, 755 ESFS Reaper 7 non-commissioned officer, Senior Airman Adrian Torres, 755 ESFS gunner 240 B for QRT4, and Master Sgt. Shawn Knowlton, 755 ESFS Reaper 4 squad leader, all deployed from the 105th SFS, Stewart Air National Guard Base, Newburgh, New York. Sept. 11 is never too far from the hearts and minds of the 105th SFS deployed here. Through mementos and each other, they remember one unit member who was killed during the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rob Hazelett)
by Tech. Sgt. Rob Hazelett
455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
9/10/2013 - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Sept. 11 is never too far from the hearts and minds of the 105th Security Forces Squadron deployed here from Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York. Through mementos and each other, they remember one unit member who was killed during the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed that day, when three passenger airplanes were hijacked and flown into the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C., while a fourth airplane was hijacked and crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pa.
Among those killed at the site of the World Trade Center was Staff Sgt. Jerome Dominguez, 105th SFS.
When Dominguez wasn't wearing a US Air Force uniform for the New York ANG, he wore the uniform of the New York Police Department's elite emergency service unit while he served and protected the people of New York City. He was an initial responder to the World Trade Center attack, and was killed while evacuating people from the interior of WTC Tower #2 when it collapsed.
While twelve years have passed since the attack of Sept. 11, deployed members from the 105th SFS keep the memory of their comrade alive by carrying an encased folded flag with a picture of Dominguez. The flag has been flown by the security forces personnel as they deploy around the world in support of operations to prevent future attacks on America.
"In addition to the flag, the team carries a historical folder documenting this practice through the years and deployment locations," said Master Sgt. Anthony Kavouras, 755th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Reaper 7 NCO in charge of tactical operations center, who knew Dominguez personally. "We have not forgotten to carry his memory with us everywhere we go."
The quest to carry the mementos is inspirational, considering there were others there from the squadron in harm's way after the buildings had fallen.
"I was one of the first responders to ground zero along with about 18 others who went there looking to see if we could rescue him," said Kavouras, a native from the Bronx.
Other security forces members here added why it was important to them to be here serving on a deployment during the Sept. 11 anniversary.
Master Sgt. Shawn Knowlton, 755 ESFS Reaper 4 squad leader, deployed from the 105th SFS, Stewart ANGB, Newburgh, N.Y., and a 19-year veteran, said he remembers vividly where he was on that day twelve years ago.
"I was in the North Carolina ANG at the time. I woke up and reported to base for activation," said Knowlton, a native from Watertown, N.Y., on his fifth deployment, and works as a federal agent with the Department of Homeland Security, when not on military orders. "I feel proud to serve on this date in a deployed location, representing the Air Force, ANG and state of New York."
Another security forces service member said it was with great honor to be here during this time.
"The 105th SFS stands strong together and on the war on terrorism due to our member that was lost on 9/11," said Tech. Sgt. Michael Pacenza, 755 ESFS Reaper 7 squad leader, deployed from the 105th SFS, Stewart ANGB, Newburgh, N.Y., and a 10-year Air Force veteran from Newburgh, N.Y.
Tech. Sgt. Christopher Drews, 755 ESFS 2nd in charge quick-reaction team 4, deployed from the 105th SFS, Stewart ANGB, Newburgh, N.Y., is a 13-year military veteran, who has served five years in the NY ANG.
"Never forget, history always repeats itself, and if there is one thing I have learned about history is men don't learn from history," Drews said.
Drews works as a police office in New York and hails from Brooklyn, N.Y. He is on his sixth deployment, two of which have overlapped the Sept. 11 anniversary.
Another security forces member who is on his second deployment during the Sept. 11 anniversary, remembers his inspiration for serving and said it was bittersweet being here.
Senior Airman Adrian Torres, 755 ESFS gunner 240 B for QRT4, deployed from the 105th SFS, Stewart ANGB, Newburgh, N.Y., joined the Air Force a short time after the attacks.
"Nothing can bring back all that was lost, affected and changed after that day; but being here with the 105th shows everyone the unbreakable resiliency and perseverance we as New Yorkers have acquired after that day," Torres said, who is a police officer for New York State's Metropolitan Transportation Authority. "We never quit and never stay down or depressed no matter what. We are here to win and motivated to do something positive here.
"My father is a fire lieutenant in the New York Fire Department and responded to the attacks while off duty. His actions later instilled in me a sense of selfless service and inspired me to become a police officer in New York and join the Guard," said Torres, a 3-year Air Force veteran who hails from Queens, N.Y.
Torres said he was a college student at the time of the attacks and saw the towers fall from his block in Queens.
"I knew my father was there before the buildings had collapsed and honestly thought he wasn't coming back home, but thankfully he returned home, covered in debris, later that night."
Through it all, they have never forgotten Dominguez. He was their friend who gave his life doing a job he loved and his legacy remains with them wherever they go; especially with the mementos their unit carries with them to ensure his memory lives on.
For more information on Staff Sgt. Dominguez, please see the video linked below on YouTube featuring fellow 105th security forces officer Master Sgt. Frank Berlanga, who was a close friend to Dominguez.
During the writing of this article, the 105th SFS lost another security forces member, Staff Sgt. Todd 'T.J.' Lobraico during an outside the wire mission here Sept. 5, 2013. In keeping with their tradition, the 105th SFS will now carry a flag in his honor.