Sather Airmen say farewell to fallen comrade

Airmen from the 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Detachment 2 Police Transition Team stand in formation at Camp Stryker, Iraq, during a memorial ceremony honoring 1st Lt. Joseph D. Helton, Jr. Sept. 12, 2009. Lieutenant Helton, a flight commander for the 732nd ESFS Det. 2, was killed Sept. 8, 2009, by an improvised explosive device while leading his team on a mission in Baghdad. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Johnny L. Saldivar)

Airmen from the 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Detachment 2 Police Transition Team stand in formation at Camp Stryker, Iraq, during a memorial ceremony honoring 1st Lt. Joseph D. Helton, Jr. Sept. 12, 2009. Lieutenant Helton, a flight commander for the 732nd ESFS Det. 2, was killed Sept. 8, 2009, by an improvised explosive device while leading his team on a mission in Baghdad. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Johnny L. Saldivar)

An Airman from the 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Detachment 2 Police Transition Team kneels to pay his final respects during a memorial ceremony held at Camp Stryker, Iraq, in honor of 1st Lt. Joseph D. Helton, Jr. Sept. 12, 2009. Lieutenant Helton, a flight commander for the 732nd ESFS Det. 2, was killed Sept. 8, 2009, by an improvised explosive device while leading his team on a mission in Baghdad. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Johnny L. Saldivar)

An Airman from the 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Detachment 2 Police Transition Team kneels to pay his final respects during a memorial ceremony held at Camp Stryker, Iraq, in honor of 1st Lt. Joseph D. Helton, Jr. Sept. 12, 2009. Lieutenant Helton, a flight commander for the 732nd ESFS Det. 2, was killed Sept. 8, 2009, by an improvised explosive device while leading his team on a mission in Baghdad. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Johnny L. Saldivar)

Maj. Joseph Engelbrecht posthumously presents 1st Lt. Joseph D. Helton, Jr. a Bronze Star with valor device during a memorial ceremony held at Camp Stryker, Iraq, in his honor Sept. 12, 2009.  Lieutenant Helton, a flight commander for the 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Detachment 2 and a 2007 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, was killed Sept. 8, 2009, by an improvised explosive device while leading his team on a mission in Baghdad. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Johnny L. Saldivar)

Maj. Joseph Engelbrecht posthumously presents 1st Lt. Joseph D. Helton, Jr. a Bronze Star with valor device during a memorial ceremony held at Camp Stryker, Iraq, in his honor Sept. 12, 2009. Lieutenant Helton, a flight commander for the 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Detachment 2 and a 2007 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, was killed Sept. 8, 2009, by an improvised explosive device while leading his team on a mission in Baghdad. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Johnny L. Saldivar)

Maj. Joseph Engelbrecht salutes a memorial to 1st Lt. Joseph D. Helton, Jr. after posthumously presenting him a Bronze Star with valor device during a ceremony at Camp Stryker, Iraq, Sept. 12, 2009. Lieutenant Helton, a flight commander for the 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Detachment 2, was killed Sept. 8, 2009, by an improvised explosive device while leading his team on a mission in Baghdad. Major Engelbrecht is the 732nd ESFS Det. 2 commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Johnny L. Saldivar)

Maj. Joseph Engelbrecht salutes a memorial to 1st Lt. Joseph D. Helton, Jr. after posthumously presenting him a Bronze Star with valor device during a ceremony at Camp Stryker, Iraq, Sept. 12, 2009. Lieutenant Helton, a flight commander for the 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Detachment 2, was killed Sept. 8, 2009, by an improvised explosive device while leading his team on a mission in Baghdad. Major Engelbrecht is the 732nd ESFS Det. 2 commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Johnny L. Saldivar)

Servicemembers from the Victory Base Complex near Baghdad attend a memorial ceremony for 1st Lt. Joseph D. Helton, Jr. Sept. 12, 2009. Lieutenant Helton, a flight commander for the 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Detachment 2 Police Transition Team and a 2007 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, was killed Sept. 8, 2009, by an improvised explosive device while leading his team on a mission in Baghdad. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Johnny L. Saldivar)

Servicemembers from the Victory Base Complex near Baghdad attend a memorial ceremony for 1st Lt. Joseph D. Helton, Jr. Sept. 12, 2009. Lieutenant Helton, a flight commander for the 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Detachment 2 Police Transition Team and a 2007 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, was killed Sept. 8, 2009, by an improvised explosive device while leading his team on a mission in Baghdad. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Johnny L. Saldivar)

Servicemembers from the Victory Base Complex near Baghdad attend a memorial ceremony held to honor 1st Lt. Joseph D. Helton, Jr. Sept. 12, 2009. Lieutenant Helton, a flight commander for the 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, Detachment 2 Police Transition Team and a 2007 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, was killed Sept. 8, 2009, by an improvised explosive device while leading his team on a mission in Baghdad. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Johnny L. Saldivar)

Servicemembers from the Victory Base Complex near Baghdad attend a memorial ceremony held to honor 1st Lt. Joseph D. Helton, Jr. Sept. 12, 2009. Lieutenant Helton, a flight commander for the 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, Detachment 2 Police Transition Team and a 2007 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, was killed Sept. 8, 2009, by an improvised explosive device while leading his team on a mission in Baghdad. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Johnny L. Saldivar)

CAMP STRYKER, Iraq -- "Lieutenant Helton?"

Silence.

"Lieutenant Helton?"

Silence.

"First Lieutenant Joseph Dennis Helton Jr."

Silence.

Today was the final roll call for 1st Lt. Joseph D. Helton Jr., 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, Detachment 2 flight commander, who perished when a roadside bomb detonated close to his vehicle near Baghdad Sept. 8, making him the first security forces officer to have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He was 24 years old.

Lieutenant Helton received his commission from the U.S. Air Force Academy on May 30, 2007, but instead of becoming a pilot, he decided to be a "ground pounder" as some members in the security forces profession call it.

In November 2008, he volunteered for an assignment to Iraq, went through pre-deployment training attached to Det. 2, but deployed to the 732nd ESFS Det. 3 as a flight commander.

Last month, instead of going home upon completion of the Det. 3 assignment, Lieutenant Helton volunteered to help lead Det. 2 as a flight commander.

And on Sept. 12, the members of Det 2 honored his memory.

On the stage, in front of more than three hundred servicemembers, lay a folded American flag; it had been pulled out of Lieutenant Helton's backpack, which he had with him on his last mission.

"We know that people join the fight for different reasons. Some join for the sense of service, some to be a part of something special, and some for a pride in their nation. Joe joined the fight for all three,' said Maj. Joe Engelbrecht, 732nd ESFS Det. 2 commander.

"He knew the Police Transition Team mission he volunteered for made him part of something special. He would be aiding in the development of the service that would be the key to the enforcement of the rule of law and security for the new Iraq. And finally, it is clear he loved his nation. I don't know how long he had been carrying that flag with him, but I would not be surprised if he carried it with him on all of his missions."

First Lieutenant Sullivan, 732nd ESFS Det 2 flight commander, reflected back to when he was in technical school with Lieutenant Helton, where everyone presented classmates flight awards that were usually comical. However, the group came up with something different for Lieutenant Helton. The security forces career field is authorized only one General Officer billet, who is known as the "Top Cop".

"I can remember his face when we read 'Lt. Joseph D. Helton Jr., most likely to run our career field one day.' He waited for the punch-line, but there wasn't one. He'll never be a General in the Air Force ... but for the rest of my life he will be 'Top Cop,'" Lieutenant Sullivan said.

"Joe was amazing and could kick out something in half the time as this knuckle-dragging Captain could. It just was a gift and it came easy for him," said Captain Richard J. Martin II, 732nd ESFS Det 2 operations officer. "A true leader, Joe always set the example and never wanted to fail at anything he did. He wanted to be the best."

"He had a contagious smile," Lieutenant Sullivan said. "He could lighten the mood of a room when it was most needed. But he was also the consummate professional. There wasn't a challenge in the world that he would refuse and when he took something on, he was always the best at what he did."

"Well Joe, it looks like the sun has set on your reign here as a leader. This was not the way it was supposed to end...so young and so early,' said Captain Martin. "But you can rest assured, as I speak for every young Airman, Soldier, NCO and officer. We will pick up the torch you carried and continue on for you, and hopefully we will do it with a passion and dedication that you taught us all, with your example.

"Goodbye, my friend. Goodbye, Joe."