A Soldier’s Dream: The “Why” Behind Team Tomlin
My name is Teri Onoda, the former Company Commander of Charlie Company, 12th Aviation Battalion. This is one of three Blackhawk helicopter units that provide VIP support and contingency response to the Nation’s Capital.
My crew was composed of myself as the Pilot-In-Command; my co-pilot, Chief Warrant Officer Two Christopher Nicholas; and my crew chief, Specialist Jeremy Tomlin.
On April 17th, 2017, while flying in the last aircraft of a three-ship air assault exercise, my Blackhawk encountered a mechanical malfunction resulting in the tail-rotor decomposing and tearing the helicopter apart.
Our aircraft was no longer flyable, but we had to delay our emergency landing because we were directly above the city of Leonardtown, Maryland. Once past the city, we executed an autorotation (landing a helicopter without power). After falling more than a thousand feet and spinning three and half times, our helicopter made impact with the earth which had a catastrophic effect on our crew.
It was on that day that my soldier, Specialist Jeremy Tomlin, was killed. He was a dedicated husband and son, a friend loved by all who knew him, and an amazing, happy, and special person. Only 22 years old, Jeremy is the image of the countless soldiers that have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to this amazing nation.
As our crew fell to the earth, and we were barely able to maintain control of the aircraft, I witnessed this young man put his own safety at risk and stick his body outside the aircraft to observe the condition of the back portion of our aircraft. As we came even closer to impacting the earth, Jeremy repeated the action in an effort to clear our landing. He was killed on impact.
Throughout the past 10 months of my recovery, it is Jeremy’s actions during our crash and his life story that I share with anyone that will listen. Every time I ride, I ride for Jeremy. The Serve Our Willing Warriors Warrior Bike Ride on Sunday, May 6th, 2018 will be my third ride in which I will carry his banner and his name across the start and finish lines. It is my hope that this time, I can cross those lines with a team. A team telling his story and memorializing the young American boy that said “choose me” when the nation asked for warriors.