Freyholtz and Malone were pilots assigned to the Alaska Air National Guard's 249th Airlift Squadron. Hill was a pilot assigned to Elmendorf's 517th Airlift Squadron, and Cicardo was a loadmaster with the 249th Airlift Squadron.
"We come to work with immense sorrow after four of our fellow airmen lost their lives," said Brig. Gen. Charles E "Chuck" Foster, the commander of the 176th Wing of the Alaska Air National Guard, in a statement. "They were more than valued Airmen: They were our teammates, friends, family members and fellow Alaskans."
At this weekend's Arctic Thunder air show there will be a memorial C-17 on the flight line next to the static C-17 for the air show. There will be pictures of the crew and people are invited to leave flowers, said Bob Hall, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson public affairs officer.
Maj. Michael Freyholtz, 34, originally from Hines, Minn., joined the Air Force in May 1998. He was selected to fly the C-17 "Globemaster III" aircraft. In 2007 he left active duty to move to Alaska and join the Alaska Air National Guard. He was the first outside pilot hired for the new 249th Air Squadron. Freyholtz was the unit's first C-17 Flight Examiner Pilot and Air Show Demonstration Pilot. Freyholtz received the Air Medal for his service in Afghanistan and Iraq, where he flew 608 combat hours.
Maj. Aaron "Zippy" Malone, 36, served for more than 12 years in the Air National Guard, first in Iowa and then Montana. While with the Montana Guard, he flew air sovereignty missions in the 9/11 aftermath and deployed to the Korean Peninsula. He transferred to the Alaska Air National Guard to come back to his home state in 2008. He was an instructor pilot in the C-17 and routinely flew combat missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Capt. Jeffrey Hill, 31, of the 517th Airlift Squadron was a C-17A Instructor Pilot and an Operations Flight Commander at Elmendorf Air Force Base. Hill was assigned to stand up the new C-17 squadron in Alaska, where he was able to indulge in his love of the outdoors. A release from the Alaska Air National Guard says Hill "was an amazing flight commander," and that "Jeff's trademark was a positive attitude. His happiness and smile were infectious." Hill was originally from York, Pa.
Master Sgt. Thomas Cicardo, 47, spent more than 28 years in the U.S. Armed Forces. Before joining the Alaska Air National Guard, Cicardo served in the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army and the Air Force Reserve. He joined the Alaska Air National Guard in 1997 and spent his first 11 years in the 210th and 211th Rescue Squadrons, where he flew the HC-130. During his time in the rescue squadrons, Cicardo was credited with saving 66 lives and assisting 13 others to safety. He deployed multiple times to Afghanistan, flying combat search and rescue missions there and personnel recovery missions in the Horn of Africa.
Cicardo was posthumously promoted to the rank of Senior Master Sergeant on Friday after Maj. Gen. Thomas H. Katkus, adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard, determined that he met all the eligibility requirements for the next-higher rank prior to death.