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Hurlburt honors airman who died fighting Australian fires

Staff Writer
Walton Sun
Walton Sun

HURLBURT FIELD — Hundreds of Air Commandos, family and friends gathered to commemorate a fallen teammate, husband, father, brother, son and friend during a memorial service Friday.

The service honored the life of Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Rick A. DeMorgan Jr., superintendent of the 4th Special Operations Squadron. DeMorgan, who was awaiting a March 1 retirement date, was killed Jan. 23 while working with aerial firefighting company Coulson Aviation when a C-130 aircraft crashed in Australia while supporting firefighting efforts.

“While on the surface, today could appear to be a day of mourning, a day of grief and reflection of loss. I submit that it’s also a day of celebration,” said Lt. Col. Peter Ventres, commander of the 4th Special Operations Squadron. “A celebration of a great life that touched many hearts, inspired so many minds and steered so many lives. A celebration of family, a celebration of friends, a celebration of brothers in arms.”

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DeMorgan enlisted in the Air Force in 1995 and became a maintenance apprentice on the C-141 Starlifter. In 2002, he started his aircrew career as a C-130 flight engineer with the 50th Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base. DeMorgan reported to Hurlburt Field in 2005 as an AC-130H Spectre gunship flight engineer, and was instrumental in moving the 16th Special Operations Squadron to Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico.

DeMorgan returned to Hurlburt Field in 2012 as operations superintendent of the 14th Weapons Squadron. He instructed prospective weapons officers in the AC-130, MC-130 and U-28 aircraft while flying the AC-130U Spooky gunship.

“Rick was undeniably the best in this profession,” said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Benjamin Buzga, senior enlisted leader with the 4th Special Operations Squadron. “His high standards of integrity and performance had an effect that inspired others to rise and achieve higher levels of performance themselves.”

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In 2017, DeMorgan became the operations superintendent at the 19th Special Operations Squadron, mentoring Air Force Special Operations Command’s newest students in their largest formal training schoolhouse.

“Rick was larger than life. He was loyal and he definitely had the utmost candor, but he always got the mission done,” said Chief Master Sgt. Corey Fossbender, senior enlisted leader with the 19th Special Operations Squadron. “He was funny, animated, brutally honest and courageous. He loved his children dearly, he loved life and he loved being an Air Commando.”

DeMorgan amassed over 4,000 total flight hours, nearly 2,000 of which were in combat during 13 deployments in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.