Honoring two great American Soldiers

Mick Derrickson, a maintenance mechanic with the 17th Civil Engineer Squadron, installs letters above the front entrance to 344th Military Intelligence Battalion aboard a working-platform vehicle Feb. 28. After the official building dedication later this year, it will be renamed to the Vance-Nolan Building. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luis Loza Gutierrez)

Mick Derrickson, a maintenance mechanic with the 17th Civil Engineer Squadron, installs letters above the front entrance to 344th Military Intelligence Battalion aboard a working-platform vehicle Feb. 28. After the official building dedication later this year, it will be renamed to the Vance-Nolan Building. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luis Loza Gutierrez)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- There is something new over the main entrance of the 344th Military Intelligence Battalion Headquarters Building on West Vance Street: the names of two great American Soldiers who laid down their lives for their comrades while serving their country.

During a dedication ceremony later this year, the building will be named the Vance-Nolan Building in honor of Army Staff Sgt. Gene A. Vance and Army Sgt. Joseph M. Nolan, two Soldiers who attended technical training at Goodfellow Air Force Base and gave the ultimate sacrifice on foreign soil.

"The Soldiers and civilians of this battalion are enormously humbled to be a part of this dedication in honor of these two great American Soldiers," said Lt. Col. Kemp Chester, 344th Military Intelligence Battalion commander. "It is the very least we can do to remember and recognize their sacrifice for our freedom."

Staff Sgt. Gene A. Vance attended the Persian Farsi Voice Interceptor Course at Goodfellow and graduated in November 1998. Staff Sgt. Vance, of Morgantown, W. Va., was the first U.S. Army graduate of Goodfellow Air Force Base's cryptologic training to be killed in action while taking part in Operation Enduring Freedom.

As a Persian Farsi linguist assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Staff Sgt. Vance died as a result of gunshot wounds on May 19, 2002 during an engagement with Taliban forces.

Sgt. Joseph M. Nolan attended the Arabic Voice Interceptor Course at Goodfellow and graduated in November 2002. Sergeant Nolan, of Waterbury, Connecticut, was the first U.S. Army graduate of the Goodfellow Air Force Base's cryptologic training to be killed in action while taking part in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

As an Arabic linguist assigned to the 312th Military Intelligence Battalion, Sgt. Nolan was killed when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device.

The 344th Military Intelligence Battalion and the 17th Training Wing initiated the process of dedicating the building to the two fallen Army NCOs in June 2005. On July 26, 2006, the U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff approved the memorialization of the building.

Although the north wall of the building presently bears the names of Sergeants Nolan and Vance, the official dedication ceremony is scheduled to take place sometime in the fall. The 344th Military Intelligence Battalion is currently coordinating plans for the dedication with the Vance and Nolan families.

"The Vance and Nolan families are very grateful that the battalion and Goodfellow Air Force Base are remembering and honoring the sacrifice of their loved ones in this manner." said Lt. Col. Chester.

As with the dedication of any building on Goodfellow Air Force Base, we must always remember that the names of these great Americans are displayed not merely because we are proud to wear the same uniform, but because it reminds us that their sacrifice epitomizes their great love of others and their country.

Lt. Col. Chester added that the battalion would provide a date and time for the dedication once the plans have been finalized.