A memorial ceremony Thursday afternoon at Fairchild Air Force Base will mark the 25th anniversary of what many would call the worst week in base history – one that started with a mass shooting and ended with a deadly airplane crash.
Thursday will be 25 years since Dean Mellberg, a former airman, brought a semi-automatic rifle onto the base, killing five and wounding 22 at the Fairchild hospital complex before he was shot and killed by a security policeman.
An investigation later determined Mellberg had been kept in the Air Force despite repeated recommendations from mental health officials to discharge him because of serious psychological problems. When he was finally discharged from a New Mexico base, he was sent off base without any plan for treatment and eventually returned to Fairchild to kill the psychiatrist and psychologist he blamed for ending his Air Force career.
Monday will be the 25th anniversary of the crash of the base’s last B-52, which was practicing for an upcoming base air show when it rolled perpendicular to the ground, dropped onto an area near the runway and exploded. All four officers on board died in the crash.
An Air Force investigation of the crash confirmed the plane was doing dangerous maneuvers that weren’t properly approved.
The 4 p.m. ceremony at the base Memorial Park is not open to the public, a base spokesman said. It will feature the laying of wreaths from victims or family members of victims of the Mellberg shooting.
Col. Derek Salmi, commander of the 92nd Air Refueling Wing, will speak, as will Terry Fossum, a former Air Force officer and honorary commander of the Washington Air National Guard wing.
Fossum, a motivational speaker and scoutmaster who won a television reality show for survival skills, was an executive officer at the base in 1994 when the shooting and the crash occurred.
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