PAVE LOW Flight Engineer
April 6, 1978 - November 23, 2003
SSgt Thomas Alva Walkup Jr., 25, of Millville, NJ, was killed on November 23, 2003 in Afghanistan when his MH-53 PAVE LOW helicopter, call sign "Beatle 12", crashed while conducting combat operations. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, grave site Section 60, Site 1821.
Tom's family members include Parents, Patricia and Thomas Sr.; Sister, Susan Justis, and her daughter, Alyssa, 2, and is Tom's godchild.
SSgt Walkup enlisted in the U.S. Air Force at 18, soon after graduating in 1996 from Millville High School in NJ where he played on the junior varsity baseball team. While station at Hurlburt Field, he was also a volunteer firefighter with the Holley-Navarre Fire Dept.
On 23 November 2003, Tom was participating in combat operations for Operation MOUNTAIN RESOLVE when it crashed nine miles east of Bagram Air Base.
A compressor stall in one of the two engines left the PAVE LOW with one engine operating and too much weight to carry in the thin mountain air. Tom unsuccessfully attempted to jettison the auxiliary fuel tanks, and shortly after the second engine stalled while attempting to land. With all power lost, the helicopter fell from an altitude of about 200 feet onto an uneven river bank, rolled over and burst into flames. Eight people somehow managed to survive. Three other crew members and one team member was killed in the crash.