TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — “On Monday morning, a little after 8 o’clock in the morning, I received notice from my first sergeant that a family member of one of our troops had been shot in an ongoing active shooter event in Las Vegas, Nevada.,” said Lt. Col. Shannon Caleb, 726th Air Mobility Squadron commander at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. “Immediately, I knew we had to get this Airman some help; with Spangdahlem AB just into our first hour of the duty day.”
Caleb coordinated with various agencies such as the Military Family Life Consultant and Chaplain to offer support to Senior Airman Parker Melanson, 89th OSS, Andrews AFB, Washington, D.C., deployed to the 726th AMS intelligence and tactics shop, since June, after learning that his mother and sister were shot Oct. 1 at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas.
“The Red Cross had stated they needed more information before opening a case issuing an emergency notice for travel,” said Caleb. “Simultaneously, I checked our daily seven-day Air-Trans Forecast and identified a C-17 (Globemaster III) mission departing here at (noon) local. I informed Parker that we could get him on the flight.”
Caleb directed Master Sgt. Ethan Glen, 726th AMS first sergeant, to coordinate emergency leave paperwork and commercial air travel and get Melanson to the passenger terminal to catch the flight on a C-17 to Travis Air Force Base, California.
Within four hours of notification, Melanson was on his way home.
Meanwhile, Master Sgt. Matthew Cannon, 60th Aerial Port Squadron acting first sergeant, received a call from Caleb at 8 a.m. PST, Oct. 2, which was 5 p.m. in Spanghalem.
“He informed Lt. Col. Daniel Hosler, 60th (APS) commander, that he had a deployed Airman whose mother and sister were victims at the (music festival) in Las Vegas the night before,” said Cannon.
Caleb coordinated with Hosler and passed copies of his emergency leave orders, flight information and a list of other earlier flights.
“Our part in this was to receive him once the aircraft landed, provide chaplain assistance and to transport him to San Francisco for his connecting flight to Las Vegas at (10 p.m.) later that night,” said Cannon. “Prior to the aircraft arrival, I coordinated with Chaplin (Capt.) Phillip Smith, 60th (Maintenance Group), for his assistance when I received the Airman at the aircraft.”
Cannon also solicited help from Chief Master Sgt. Reny Nunag, 60th MXG first sergeant, to assist with any first sergeant responsibilities and coordinated with the 60th APS air terminal operations center to contact the U.S. Customs Office, inform them of the situation and request an expedited customs clearance at the aircraft.
At approximately 3:15 p.m., the C-17 landed at Travis.
“We boarded the aircraft and the Airman was using one of the loadmaster’s cellphone, talking to his father,” said Cannon. “After he hung up, we introduced ourselves and took him back to the 60th MXG so he could talk with Smith.”
While Smith talked with Melanson, Cannon called to coordinate an earlier flight to Las Vegas out of Sacramento, making his new arrival time in Las Vegas for 10 p.m.
With his new flight itinerary, they loaded up his bags and headed to Sacramento.
“During the ride, the Airman was trying to find out which hospital his mother was at,” said Cannon. “He still had no information where she was or her status.”
Caleb stayed in contact with the Melanson family and learned Paige, the second oldest sister, had been shot in the arm, eventually receiving eight stitches. She had been taken to Sunrise Medical Trauma Center with a gunshot wound to her shoulder that lodged in her abdomen, missing most vital organs and was in critical, but in stable condition.
“That day we did not hit one bit of resistance from any person or organization,” said Cannon. “I dropped everything to help him and it was very fulfilling. We all came together to assist this young man and we were able to get him home sooner than expected. He showed so much courage and composition during a situation where he had every right to be angry and frustrated.”
In about 24 hours, from the time Melanson received the call from his brother, he traveled over 6,000 miles to be at his mother’s bed side.
“On this morning, with the help of the 52nd (Fighter Wing) and 60th APS, we were able to get this Airmen home on very short notice thanks to a coincidental mission that was already scheduled to depart this location in just a few short hours,” said Caleb. “Fortunately, the airport in Las Vegas did not completely close to inbound flights, there were no deviations in flight plans due to weather or other unforeseen challenges. I was impressed with Melanson in how he managed his emotions through his professionalism in statements that he made (and) worried about his office and his fellow Airmen if he left Spangdahlem AB. I’m humbled, relieved and happy that we were able to take care of one of our own.”