Our world needs heroes

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Daniel Lasica
  • 309th Fighter Squadron
Our world needs heroes.

The term hero is often overused and misunderstood, similar to the word warrior. Fortunately for our country, our military is full of heroes. Maj. Troy "Trojan" Gilbert is certainly one of those heroes.

Gilbert deployed to Iraq in 2006 while stationed at Luke Air Force Base as an F-16 instructor pilot. He was killed in action in Iraq Nov. 27, 2006, while protecting U.S. Army ground forces.

While flying a combat mission in Iraq, Gilbert's flight of two F-16s received an urgent airborne tasking to provide close air support for a U.S. special operations force that had arrived on scene at a U.S. Army HH-60 helicopter shoot-down location. They were in danger of being overrun by hostile anti-Iraq ground forces.

Gilbert's flight immediately responded and began a series of strafe attacks on the enemy. During the second strafe pass his aircraft impacted the ground, fatally injuring him, but not before he destroyed two enemy truck-mounted anti-aircraft artillery guns and eleven enemy fighters.

Gilbert's selfless actions enabled eighteen American soldiers to safely egress the battlefield. Maj. Derek Thomson, the ground force commander that day stated, "During these actions, it was obvious to all of us on the ground that he was singlehandedly breaking apart the enemy forces. Our entire ground assault force owes Major Gilbert an unpayable debt of gratitude for the actions he took that day. Simply put, Troy saved us from certain heavy casualties on November 27."

Col. David Walker, currently the 31st Operations Group commander at Aviano Air Base, Italy, was Troy's deployed squadron commander and the operations supervisor on the day Troy lost his life. He had this to say about Trojan.

"I firmly believe that if I had briefed him that day that he would be called on to perform an incredibly demanding "danger close" close air support mission to prevent eighteen Americans from being overrun and killed, he would have said, "roger that," and then he would have picked up his helmet bag and pressed without another word or second thought and calmly and professionally executed his assigned mission with zero flinch."

Major Gilbert is a hero for many reasons, not the least of which is that he saved eighteen American lives that day in Iraq. He is also a hero because he left a wife and five young children to voluntarily deploy at a time when his country needed him. He is a hero because of the man he was. Dedicated father, husband, warrior, leader and friend are just a few of the words that people use to describe Troy. One close friend noted, "Troy was special, he was committed, he was ... well just better than most of us in the way he conducted his personal and professional affairs."

Let us never forget the selfless sacrifice so many have made for us and for our great nation. These heroes are a vital part of our legacy and provide a humbling example for all of us to follow.

Maj. Gen. Robin Rand, Major Gilbert's wing commander at Luke and Balad, had this to say about Troy.

"What also makes Troy's loss so hard to come to grips with is that he was one of those people that was just extra special, and here is why. When you spent time around Troy, you were motivated to try harder to be a better person."

Let's all try to live up to the legacy that heroes like Major Gilbert have left for us and try to be better people in all that we do.