Joel C. Gentz

Final Flight on June 09, 2010

Joel Christopher Gentz, 1st Lieutenant, USAF

July 09, 1984 - June 09, 2010

1st LT. Joel Christopher Gentz


Born July 09, 1984 in Rochester, New York, Died June 09, 2010 in Afghanistan.


1st Lt. Joel C. Gentz of Grass Lake, Michigan attended Chelsea High School where he ran cross country and was percussionist in the band. He also participated in swimming, tennis and was a member of the National Honor Society. In 2007 he graduated from Purdue University with degrees in aerospace and aeronautical engineering. While there, he particiated in the Air Force ROTC. He was chosen to be part of Iron Key, a senior honorary organization of students who work anonymously each year on a service project that will benefit Purdue.


Joel was the first Purdue ROTC graduate to become a Combat Rescue Officer. He was dedicated to the Air Force and accepted all challenges with eagerness. Joel approached everything he did with a high level of commitment. It was because of his dedication, that he was a true leader. Surrounded by many friends, Joel stood out as a decent person with good character.


Joel received his black belt in Tae-kwon-do. In addition to his already active lifestyle he participated in marathons and triathlons, and enjoyed hiking with his family and friends.


He met his wife, Kathryn while attending college and the couple were married June 07, 2008. Prior to relocating to Nellis Air Force Base, they lived in Albuquerque. Joel received a pilot slot, but turned it down because of his desire to become a Combat Rescue Officer to save his fellow service men. He began the Pararescue pipeline training, a grueling 2 year training including HALO, underwater training, medical training, land navigation, and SERE. He was a member of Arnold Air Society and wing commander of his detachment. Joel was a member of the Iron Key and Phi Delta Theta fraternity. He was currently serving his first deployment in Afghanistan with more than 50 hours of combat time.


He died at age 25 near Forward Operating Base Jackson, Afghanistan, in a helicopter crash. Also killed were Staff Sgt. Michael Flores of Texas, Staff Sgt. David Smith of Alabama, and Senior Airman Benjamin White of Tennessee.


Air Force, 58th Rescue Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.


Burial is at Oak Grove East Cemetery in Chelsea, Michigan.



By Eric Weddle and Justin L. Mack

June 10, 2010


A Purdue University graduate was killed in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday when insurgents attacked a NATO helicopter he was riding in. Joel C. Gentz, 25, died near Forward Operating Base Jackson in a helicopter crash, the Department of Defense announced today. Three other American troops were killed in the attack.


Gentz was a 2007 graduate of the Purdue University Air Force ROTC. He was from Grass Lake, Mich. He was assigned to the 58th Rescue Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, NV. Gentz is the 10th serviceman with Lafayette-area connections to die due to combat injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2004.


News of Gentz's death spread quickly throughout ROTC and Purdue networks today. Those who knew Gentz spoke of his natural leadership qualities that surpassed others his age, his dedication to physical abilities and his caring for others. Tony Hawkins, Purdue dean of students, had known Gentz since 2005 when Gentz was chosen to be part of Iron Key. The senior honorary organization of students works anonymously each year on a service project that will benefit Purdue.


Col. Mike Silver, former Purdue ROTC Air Force detachment commander, said he was devastated upon hearing the news of Gentz's death. Silver said he worked with Gentz during his final year at Purdue.


"Maybe it's because of my age and his age, but it's like losing a part of your family," he said. "He was clearly the most well-rounded cadet during his time there. "He was physically and mentally well-rounded, and he was just a damn nice guy." Silver said in addition to being a stand-out cadet, Gentz became the first Purdue ROTC graduate to become a Combat Rescue Officer.


According to the Air Force Special Operations Command website, the Combat Rescue Officer is an Air Force specialty created to strengthen personnel recovery abilities. In addition to commanding a small team of Pararescue personnel in enemy territory, a Combat Rescue Officer also advises battle staff units in recovery operations.