D-M pays tribute to pararescueman killed in Afghanistan
AF reservist killed while working as private contractor
Over the weekend, the 943rd Rescue Group memorialized the life of a fallen pararescueman who was killed in Afghanistan on April 6 while working as a civilian security contractor.
The memorial Saturday included family and friends of Chief Master Sgt. Nicholas L. McCaskill, 306th Rescue Squadron PJ. They recalled his life as a dedicated pararescueman, mentor to junior rescue airmen and a devoted family man.
"This memorial speaks volumes for the leadership and impact that Chief Master Sgt. Nick McCaskill had on those who knew him," said Col. Harold Maxwell, 943rd RQG Commander. "Those who served with Nick loved him and respected him, and he was a role model to the younger airmen that wanted to be like him."
"He mentored them and inspired them; he was an outstanding example of what a senior non-commissioned officer should be," Maxwell said.
The memorial included his induction into the rank of chief master sergeant, which was earned on Feb. 1, and also the presentation of the Meritorious Service Medal.
While working as a private security contractor, McCaskill was killed earlier this month by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan.
"Nick was a humble man," said Lt. Col. John Keeler, 306th RQS. "His actions and his life focused on saving lives and building his team, and not the decorations that he received."
McCaskill was born in Pomona, Calif. on Jan. 5, 1972. He spent most of his childhood in Long Beach, Calif. then moved to San Clemente, Calif. where he graduated high school.
In May 1992, McCaskill entered the Air Force as a structural maintenance specialist. After completing technical school he was assigned to Nellis AFB, Nev., where he worked on jet aircraft and helicopters, including the F-4 Phantom, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Falcon, A-10 Warthog aircraft and HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters.
In October 1994, he entered the two-year pararescue training pipeline, and in November of 1996 McCaskill was assigned to the 66th Rescue Squadron at Nellis AFB to begin his career as a pararescueman.
In 2001, McCaskill's next assignment was the 320th Special Tactics Squadron, 353rd Special Operations Group, Kadena Air Base, Japan. While assigned as a special tactics pararescueman, he deployed to the Philippines where he augmented the 1st Special Forces Group Theater Quick Reaction Force. McCaskill provided combat-search-and-rescue expertise in direct support of a mission to rescue American hostages, for which he was awarded the Joint Service Achievement Medal from the commander of the U.S. Pacific Command.
In addition, he supported a maritime interdiction operation that led to the elimination of the region's number one most-wanted terrorist. In 2003, the 353rd Special Operations Group recognized McCaskill as PJ of the Year for "building the most capable team in the unit's history."
McCaskill joined the 48th Rescue Squadron in 2005. He deployed to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and led 13 combat missions.
On one mission, McCaskill led a four-man rescue team to recover six U.S. Army air crew members and four 10th Mountain Division soldiers killed in a CH-47 Chinook helicopter crash. The mission required a three-hour overland move through hostile and hazardous mountainous terrain. While exposed to extreme danger from hostile machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire, his team worked continuously for 24 hours, taking sporadic enemy fire, to ensure that all 10 killed in action and all sensitive items were recovered from the crash site.
"Nick's skills leadership and persistence reduced a seven-day recovery mission to less than 48 hours; we all know how painful it would be to wait seven days to find out the status of a loved one," Keeler said.
For his efforts on that mission, McCaskill was awarded the Bronze Star.
Later that year, McCaskill led a 14-man team in support relief efforts after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. They were credited with 1,200 rescues.
In July of 2006, McCaskill became a reservist with the 306th RQS. McCaskill led numerous NASA missions at Kennedy Space Center and executed Guardian Angel exercises with ally countries in both Tajikistan and the Philippines.
McCaskill served more 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, including 16 years conducting rescue and special operations. He had 500-plus flight hours, 200 of which were during combat operations.
McCaskill leaves behind a wife and two daughters.
Johnson is chief of public affairs for the 943rd Rescue Group, U.S. Air Force Reserve, at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.