Commander's thanks

The Canadian Snowbirds Aerial Demonstration Team perform their signature Canada Goose formation during practice over Malmstrom Air Force Base May 19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Emerald Ralston)

The Canadian Snowbirds Aerial Demonstration Team perform their signature Canada Goose formation during practice over Malmstrom Air Force Base May 19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Emerald Ralston)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- As everyone knows by now, Team Malmstrom experienced a tragic event May 25 when Snowbird 2, Capt. Shawn McCaughey, crashed during rehearsal for the weekend's air show. At the request of the Snowbird team, we still held our open house without their performance and invited the community to come out and witness our folks showcasing our mission. 

What the community didn't get to witness was the incredible teamwork and professionalism that immediately engaged when Snowbird 2 crashed on the other side of our runway. 

We exercise scenarios to prepare for these tragic events hoping we never have to put into play what we've learned. Unfortunately, sometimes we do ... and you did with remarkable professionalism and compassion. 

Last Friday we faced the ultimate test, and everyone went above and beyond in executing their requirements. From putting out the fire, to erecting tents, to securing the site, to walking the search line, to taking care of Team Malmstrom and the Snowbirds ... you were absolutely awesome! Each and every person with the Snowbirds saw, felt and deeply appreciated all that you did. Words cannot express the gratitude I felt from our Canadian allies, neighbors and friends. You have forged a great bond that will not be broken. 

Our guests have now departed to try and pick up the pieces of their lives and move on with their mission. Their professionalism and perseverance are impressive. It will be some time before the investigation is complete and we can put this to rest completely. In the meantime, I know you will continue to demonstrate your skill and professionalism if called upon for help. 

My personal thanks to each of you. You have magnificently handled a very serious and delicate situation. You are why we are Wing One, and warriors one and all. 

For anyone interested in making donations, Captain McCaughey's family prefers donations be made to Montreal's St. Justine Hospital Foundation (Neo-Natal Unit) in honor of "Snowbird No. 2, Captain Shawn McCaughey." For information about this charity, please visit www.fondation-sainte-justine. org.