SWANTON (AP) -- After a moment of silence and an official ribbon-cutting, the 180th Fighter Wing dedicated a new building at Toledo Express Airport on Saturday. But it was a bittersweet occasion, as the building was named and dedicated to a 180th pilot who was killed earlier this year while on active duty in Iraq.
The Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Sonnenberg Complex will now house the 180th Fighter Wing Logistics Readiness Squadron. Designed to improve safety and efficiency, it replaces a nearly 50-year-old building that was one of the first ever built on the base. "[We] stock over 10,000 line items of aircraft parts, vehicle parts and other parts used to support various pieces of equipment that we have on base," said Lt. Col. Michael Masiker of the 180th Fighter Wing.
More importantly, they are proud to call it the Sonnenberg Complex. Lt. Col. Kevin Sonnenberg from the 180th was killed when his F-16 fighter plane crashed while on active duty in Iraq in June. US Central Air Command says the crash was an accident, but didn't give more detail than that. Sonnenberg was the only one on-board.
Sonnenberg was a farmer and a pilot for Delta Airlines when not serving with the 180th. He lived in McClure, and is buried not far from there. "He didn't need to risk his life doing this. He did that because in his heart, this is something he believed in," said Lt. Col. Scott Reed of the 180th Fighter Wing. "So I think [he's] a great testament to the soldiers of America."
The jet was deployed to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Balad Air Base. Airmen and planes from the 180th Fighter Wing were deployed to Iraq to be part of that larger unit. While in Iraq, they flew surveillance and support missions to help ground troops. They rest of the unit returned in August.
"We are so proud of Kevin," said Congresswoman Marci Kaptur, who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony. "We are so proud of the members of this unit, so proud of the sacrifice they make everyday."
The 180th Fighter Wing is based at Toledo Express Airport, a joint civilian-military facility about 10 miles from downtown Toledo.