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Cannon Airman killed in Iraq

  • Published
  • By Janet Taylor-Birkey
  • 27th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Capt. Kermit Evans, 31, of Hollandale, Miss., was killed Sunday when the Marine CH-46 helicopter he was traveling in was forced to make an emergency water landing near the shore of Lake Qadisiyah in western Al Anbar Province, Iraq, according to a U. S. Central Command Air Forces Public Affairs release.

Captain Evans was one of 16 military personnel aboard the helicopter and one of four servicemembers killed as a result of the landing that happened at approximately 2:30 p.m., Baghdad time.

Deployed from the 27th Fighter Wing, 27th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit, Captain Evans was assigned to the 732nd Expeditionary Mission Support Group, a unit of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, Balad Air Base, Iraq.

"The loss of any Airman is shared by the entire Air Force community," said Col. Valentino Bagnani III, 27th Fighter Wing vice commander. His sentiments were echoed by Lt. Col. Stephen Wood, 27th Civil Engineer Squadron commander who said Captain Evans' "untimely death ... has affected us all. His loss is felt by the entire unit and their families."

Captain Evans was born April 15, 1975 in Hollandale, Miss. After graduating from Mississippi State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in chemical engineering, he entered Officer Training School in 2001 at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., and received his commission as a second lieutenant in November of 2001.

Captain Evans began his Air Force career as a general engineer, but after meeting (now retired) Master Sgt. John (J.J.) Holland, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, realized he should make a career field switch to EOD. Sergeant Holland described Evans as "a very motivated, gung-ho civil engineer officer who was not satisfied with the status-quo."

Captain Evans questioned Sergeant Holland about EOD when the two men met after a staff meeting. Sergeant Holland said he believes it was after a tour of the EOD squadron at Nellis that Evans wanted to "go blow some stuff up." It was on a follow-up experience on the explosives range where Evans told Holland that this was what he wanted to do.
Retired Capt. Roger Christiansen also saw the motivation in Captain Evans, but tried to dissuade Evans by stressing the difficulties of being an EOD officer, the challenges of school and the dangers associated with the work.

"He wasn't phased by any of it," said Captain Christiansen, so he took a different approach, this time a more positive one. "Once I realized he was serious and that this was his true desire, I strongly encouraged him to do so. His attitude, humor and energy made him a natural."

It was this attitude, humor and energy that made Captain Evans a leader to be respected among not only fellow officers, but the men and women he led as the EOD flight commander.

"Every time we ran into a major obstacle or pitfall, he loved to say, 'Bring it on!'" said Tech. Sgt. Garet Vannes, 27th FW EOD. If there were problems, Sergeant Vannes said Captain Evans let his folks know, "I'll take the heat on that."

"(That was) just another example on how he felt that we were his team, and nobody was going to mess with his EOD folks," the sergeant said.

This attitude and determination led Captain Evans to be decorated with awards including major decorations such as the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Commendation Medal. He led his unit to the 2005 Senior Master Sergeant Stryzak Award as the "Best Explosives Ordnance Disposal Flight in Air Combat Command."

"The Cannon EOD flight and EOD career field are going to miss a great leader, mentor and friend. Captain Evans' comrades will always remember the big smile he had on his face since setting off his first detonation. It never wore off," said Master Sgt. Harold Hailer, 27th FW EOD flight chief. "He had it on every day he was here, no matter how mundane the task."

Captain Evans is survived by his wife, Perneatha and a 13-month-old son, Kermit Evans Jr.