62nd Fighter Squadron Pilot Leaves Behind Lasting Memories
by Capt. Miki K. Gilloon
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
3/19/2008 - LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Second Lieutenant David Mitchell, a 62nd Fighter Squadron student pilot who was killed during a training mission March 14 was honored here Tuesday during a memorial service in which family, friends and fellow wingmen described him as an aspiring fighter pilot, natural leader and devoted family man.
"I couldn't be more proud of David," said father Mr. Dave Mitchell, "He was the son I was blessed with and for the man he became."
Lt. Mitchell was a traditional member of the Ohio Air National Guard's 180th Fighter Wing who enlisted in October 2001 and joined the wing's Maintenance Squadron as a jet engine shop mechanic. He earned his commission as a second lieutenant in June 2006 and graduated from undergraduate pilot training at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, in August 2007. He arrived at the 56th Fighter Wing in November 2007, to attend the F-16 basic course.
The hearts and minds of squadron members were still heavy, but were overshadowed by memories of Lt. Mitchell's daily pre-flight banter, jokes at the ops group desk and overall high spirits.
"As I think back to my early impressions of Dave, what stands out in my mind the most is the excitement he had being here at Luke flying the jets that he previously spent so much time working on," said Capt. Matthew Kenkel, fellow 62nd FS student.
Lt. Mitchell's engine mechanic background provided a fresh and different perspective for his classmates. "It became quickly apparent how much Dave knew when he would add just a bit more information to engine academics. He had a special appreciation for not only for flying the Viper, but for all the hours of labor, bloody knuckles, sweat, tears and work that went into making his flight hours possible," Capt. Kenkel said.
Lt. Mitchell earned 237 total flight hours in the T-38 Talon and F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft.
According to Lt. Col. Pablo Sanchez, 62nd FS commander, Lt. Mitchell was not a typical lieutenant. "Having worked his way through the ranks of our enlisted force, it was clear that his arrival at Luke followed a long road of commitment and dedication to learn the trade of being an aviator."
His stepbrother Mr. Justin Hayman emphasized to the Luke members in attendance that Lt. Mitchell lived his dream of flying a multi-role fighter aircraft.
"David lived and died doing what he loved," Mr. Hayman said. "While most people will never even find the courage to go out and attempt to make their dreams a reality, David made his."
Thirty-one members of the Ohio National Guard were also present during the service.
Senior Master Sgt. Mike Berry, 180th Propulsion Element and former supervisor of Lt. Mitchell was proud that the young pilot was selected for the commissioning program and pilot training.
Lt. Mitchell was considered as the maintenance squadron's golden boy, he said. "I've been doing this for 32 years and the one thing I was really looking forward to doing -- and I didn't let him know this -- was standing and saluting him. I now salute Second Lieutenant Dave Mitchell."
Note: Non tax-deductible contributions can be made directly to the Mitchell Family by dropping off payments at any Credit Union West branch for deposit into the Mitchell Family Memorial Fund.