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Silent Heroes Eulogized At Lackland Ceremony

The Air Force at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Friday honored an intelligence specialist whose plane crashed over Afghanistan earlier this year.

The Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency also honored other Airmen who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the 65 years of the organization's history.

“This morning we pay tribute to Staff Sgt. Richie Dickson and 51 other intelligence professionals who perished in the line of duty.”

Major General John Shanahan spoke to a somber audience, including the family of Staff Sgt. Richard Dickson. The 24-year-old intelligence specialist was nearing the end of his deployment in April, when on a mission over Kandahar, his MC-12 aircraft crashed. The incident is still under investigation.

The ISR is 65 years old this year. It was formed just one year after the Air Force itself, with the mission of gathering intelligence and analyzing data to assist the military and the president in making wartime and foreign relations decisions.

Dickson’s commander, Lt. Col. Robb Rigtrup said the airman was a natural leader.

“Because he was so adept at what he did, he was able to get people to follow him because they wanted to be as good as he was on the airplane,” he said.

A large contingency of veterans of the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency, attend the service every year to honor their fallen comrades.

Almost 30 veterans came to Lackland for this commemoration. Gen. Shanahan took time to speak with Tech. Sgt., Retired, Art Plumstead.

“I come every year,” Plumstead said.

“So you were in the 6924th, Danang,” Shanahan said.

“It was a year out of my life,” Plumstead said. “And I’ll never forget it. It had an impact on me.”

Shanahan says there’s a reason the airmen of the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency are called “Silent Warriors.”

“We don’t get the chance to talk about ISR professionals very often. They don’t necessarily show up on the front pages of the newspaper because of the sensitivity of their mission. They provide that intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance that is critical – that is vital – to executing war-fighter operations,” he said.

The ISR is based in San Antonio and answers only to the Deputy Chief of Staff at the Pentagon. Shanahan says the agency has been through many iterations and name changes, but its mission has remained consistent over the 65 years – to  deliver a decisive advantage by providing the right ISR to the right person at the right time.

Eileen Pace is a veteran radio and print journalist with a long history of investigative and feature reporting in San Antonio and Houston, earning more than 50 awards for investigative reporting, documentaries, long-form series, features, sports stories, outstanding anchoring and best use of sound.