Hundreds of Special Tactics Airmen, family and friends gathered to commemorate a fallen teammate, son, fiancé, and warrior during a memorial service, Dec. 6, in Moon Township, Pennsylvania.
The memorial honored the life and legacy of U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin, a Special Tactics combat controller assigned to the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, who was killed Nov. 27, when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb while deployed in support of Operation FREEDOM’S SENTINEL in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan.
Two U.S. Army Special Forces team members were killed alongside Elchin: U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Michael Emond and U.S. Army Capt. Andrew Patrick Ross. Another U.S. Army Soldier, U.S. Army Sgt. Jason McClary, died later from wounds sustained in the blast.
Elchin is the 20th Special Tactics Airman to pay the ultimate sacrifice since Sept. 11, 2001.
Ron Bogolea, grandfather of Elchin, spoke at the memorial. Bogolea accredited the Boy Scout Oath as what drove Elchin to serve in the Air Force. “He was loyal to his friends, family and his country,” he said.
Shortly after graduating Hopewell High School in 2002, Elchin enlisted in the Air Force and upon graduation of basic military training, began the rigorous two-year combat control pipeline.
“During Dylan’s time in training, we learned Dylan didn’t really have a limit,” said Col. Claude Tudor, Jr., 24th Special Operations Wing commander. “He was relentless, determined and performed under pressure.”
Following his graduation from advanced skills training at Hurlburt Field, Florida, Elchin was assigned to the 26th STS, Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico. The 26th STS is part of the 720th Special Tactics Group, 24th SOW, and is the only Special Tactics wing in the Air Force.
“Dylan cared for and served others always before himself. He exemplified selflessness and heroism through his service and actions,” said Maj. Alexander Nell, acting commander of the 26th STS.
Elchin was a qualified military static line jumper, free fall jumper, an Air Force qualified combat scuba diver, and a qualified joint terminal attack controller. His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal with Valor, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Combat Action Medal, Air Force Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Air Force Longevity Service Award, Air Force NCO Professional Military Education Graduate Ribbon, Air Force Training Ribbon and NATO Medal.
“Dylan was a man who had dreams and the guts to make those dreams come true,” said Bogolea during the memorial.
Elchin deployed to Afghanistan in August and was embedded with a U.S. Army Special Operations Force Operational Detachment-Alpha team. His role was to advise the ground force commander, direct close air support aircraft, and deliver destructive ordnance on enemy targets in support of offensive combat operations.
As a Special Tactics combat controller, Elchin was specially trained and equipped for immediate deployment into combat operations to conduct global access, precision strike, and personnel recovery operations. Additionally, he was skilled in reconnaissance operations, air traffic control and terminal attack control operations.
“Fear exists at the pointy end of the Special Operations spear that defends this nation. Brave men like Dylan stand ready to defend freedom and are willing to sacrifice everything in defense of their teammates and their country,” Nell said. “Dylan made that sacrifice, and we honor his legacy by continuing to fight in his name, the same way he would do for any of us.”