William Downs – Major, United States Air Force

NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense
No. 543-05
June 01, 2005

DoD Identifies Air Force Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of four airmen who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.  The airmen died May 30 in the crash of an Iraqi air force aircraft during a training mission in eastern Diyala province. They are:

Major William Downs, 40, of Winchester, Virginia, assigned to the 6th Special Operations Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Florida.

Captain Jeremy Fresques, 26, of Clarkdale, Arizona, assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Florida.

Captain Derek Argel, 28, of Lompoc, California, assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Florida.

Staff Sergeant Casey Crate, 26, of Spanaway, Washington, assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Florida.

The cause of the crash is currently under investigation.

For further information related to this release, please contact the Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs Office at (850) 884-5515.

‘He Was a Man of Faith’
Air Force Major Killed in Iraq Remembered by Loved Ones for Comittment to Church, Family
By Linda McCarty
Courtesy of The Winchester Star

Air Force Major William “Brian” Downs lived in Frederick County for less than three years, but during that short time, his strong commitment to family, church, friends, and community left a lasting impression.

“He was the kind of guy you wished you had a church full of,” said the Rev. Mark Carey, senior pastor at Fellowship Bible Church on Middle Road, where Downs and his family attended services. “He was a man of faith, who didn’t separate it as a once a week activity but made it a part of all that he did.”

Downs, 40, and four others were killed on Memorial Day in a plane crash in Iraq.

His family will receive friends from 6-8 p.m. today at Murphy’s Funeral Home, 4510 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. Downs’ funeral will be at 1 p.m. Tuesday in the Post Chapel at Arlington National Cemetery. Burial, with full military honors, will follow the service.

In the early fall of 1999, Downs, his wife, Beth, and their three children — sons Chandler and Bailey and daughter Elle — moved from Hurlburt Field in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, to a house in Pioneer Heights.

Downs, then an Air Force Captain, had resigned from active duty to fly for US Airways out of Baltimore. He also joined the West Virginia Air National Guard based in Martinsburg and flew the C-130 Hercules.

“Brian and Beth came here because they were looking for a good place to raise their children,” said Marilu Gordon, a Frederick County resident and longtime friend of the Downs’ family. Marilu Gordon’s husband, Tim, served in the Air Force with Downs.

After moving to Frederick County, Downs was not only active in church, but also coached area Little League baseball and played softball for his church team.

“Brian began coaching Little League ball at Griffis Air Force Base in New York, long before he and Beth had children,” said Tim Gordon, a United pilot, who also resigned from the Air Force in 1999 and moved with his family to Frederick County. “Brian saw coaching as an opportunity to make him a better dad when he became a father.”

Downs was born on January 30, 1965 at Rota Naval Air Station in Rota, Spain, where his father, Lon Downs was stationed.

His family, including a brother, Frank, was living in St. Louis, Missouri, when Downs graduated from high school at Westminster Christian Academy, a school founded and served by his mother, Evelyn.

Downs was commissioned into the Air Force in 1988, several months after earning a bachelor’s degree in international business at Grove City College, in Grove City, Pennsylvania.

Downs was assigned to the 6th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, when he left active duty.

A few months after US Airways placed Downs on furlough in 2002, he returned to active duty at Hurlburt Field. He was assigned to the Air Commandos of the 6th Special Operations Squadron.

As soon as he and his family were again settled in Fort Walton Beach, they went back to Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Beth Downs said in a written statement to The Star that “Brian’s commitment to God, his family, his friends, and his country was evident in the way he lived his life. His life was a testament to his faith.”

Downs was deployed to Iraq in February, where he flew more than 90 combat sorties in an Iraqi aircraft and was directly responsible for capturing or killing 60 insurgents and nine high-value targets.

At the time of his death, Lieutenant Colonel John Alvarez, commander of the 6th Special Operations Squadron, said Downs, who was serving as an adviser to the Iraqi Air Force and was attached to a multi-national security transition team in Iraq, was at the “peak of his combat aviation advisory career, assisting the newly established Iraqi Air Force in classified and dangerous combat missions.”

On the day of the crash, Downs was on a training mission, flying a six-seat Comp Air 7SL fixed-wing aircraft donated to the Iraqis by the United Arab Emirates in November 2004, said Army Lieutenant Colonel Frederick P. Wellman, the public affairs officer with the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq at Phoenix Base, International Zone, Baghdad.

The crash occurred while in route to Julula, Iraq, which borders Iran, Wellman said.

Also killed were Iraqi Air Force Captain Ali Abass, as well as three Americans: Air Force Captains Jeremy Fresques, 26, of Clarkdale, Arizona, and Derek Argel, 28, of Lompoc, California, both special tactics officers, and Air Force Staff Sergeant Casey Crate, 26, a combat controller from Spanaway, Washington.

The Gordons still find it difficult to talk about their friend without crying.

“Brian was a strong family man, and he would want all of us to be strong and carry on,” Tim Gordon said. “But I miss him a lot, I do. He was a great guy. He really was.”

“The world is a better place because Brian Downs was here,” Marilu Gordon said. “He touched so many. We will miss him.”

In her statement, Beth Downs also said that she and her family have been overwhelmed by the “outpouring of love and support” they’ve received from the Winchester area, as well as from all over the world.

“My family and I have peace in the fact that Brian died doing what he loved to do — serving others. We are comforted in knowing he is with our Savior. Although we miss him dearly, we know we will be with him again someday.”

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  • DATE OF BIRTH: 01/30/1965
  • DATE OF DEATH: 05/30/2005

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