August 23, 1999 – June 24, 2022

Mackenzie L. Wilson, 19, passed away June 24, 2022, at the Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho.

She was born to Jessica Swan and grew up in Eagle River, Alaska. Mackenzie was involved at Eagle River High School’s JROTC program before graduating in 2020 and continuing her educational pursuit at Oregon State University. There, she studied biochemistry as well as being involved in their ROTC program; AFROTC Detachment 685 “The Flying Beavs”.

In high school, Mackenzie was awarded JROTC National Award “Daughters of the American Colonists” for being in the top 25% of her class and demonstrating community involvement; she was also given the AFROTC “Becker Excellence Award”.

Mackenzie was an inquisitive, creative, adventurous, empathetic, ambitious, and compassionate young woman. She enjoyed scuba diving, hiking, running skiing, martial arts, animals, science, art, and community service.

“Make the right decision, not the easy one.”

2022-Mackenzie Wilson

According to the Alaskan Public Media article:

“Wilson and the 18 other ROTC cadets chosen for the four-day event, Operation Air Force, at Idaho’s Mountain Home Air Force Base were college students – not in the military, but in a program that prepares them to be officers. The report says they were given unsupervised access to drive the old Humvees around the Saylor Creek Bombing Range on the last day of the program.

At one point, Wilson and two other cadets took turns behind the wheel of a Humvee doing donuts. A civilian working in a range tower noticed dust kicking up and yelled at them to knock it off. The cadets didn’t hear him, according to interview transcripts.

Minutes later, the driver lost control of the Humvee on an unnamed gravel road between range buildings. It flipped and crashed. Only the driver had a seatbelt on.

A cadet riding in the backseat was ejected, but was able to call 911. He made his way back to the Humvee and told the operator that Wilson was pinned under the Humvee with no pulse.

In the aftermath, Air Force investigators found out that the Humvees the cadets were driving were procured for use as bombing targets, and were not authorized for use as transportation. The range manager said he and other personnel regularly used the Humvees to support range operations.”

As a leader in the Young Marines, he was awarded (3) Unit Young Marine of the Year,  (1) Battalion Young Marine of the Year, the Young Marine Achievement Award, a Marine Corps League Commendation, and a Personal Commendation Award from the National Executive Director of the Young Marines Program. 

Notable News Articles

What is Operation Air Force?

Operation Air Force

Acoording to the Air Combat Command website: “Operation Air Force is a required program that provides cadets an opportunity to explore Air Force bases and find what interests them before receiving their commission as second lieutenants.” In 2015 Maj. Michael Chavarria, 628th Logistics Readiness Squadron and Operation Air Force project officer said, “Operation Air Force is a program in which cadets are exposed to a real-world Air Force base environment while letting them see how base components work together to achieve the mission. The objectives are to enhance cadet understanding of operations and support functions; provide hands-on experience in both operations and support units; expose cadets to a variety of Air Force Specialty Codes; and enable cadets to interact with senior noncommissioned officers, Department of Defense civilians, field grade and company grade officers.”

In Memory of Mackenzie

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