Friday, May 14, 2010

Fullbore Friday


Duty. It is that simple.
Had a lesser pilot been at the controls of Bluetail 601 last Wednesday, there might have been four memorial services this week instead of one.

But Lt. Miroslav "Steve" Zilberman was one of two pilots in the cockpit of the E-2C Hawkeye as it returned from a mission over Afghanistan, heading toward the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower in the North Arabian Sea.

The Ukrainian-born junior officer had distinguished himself during three years with Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 121. He knew the plane - and its training manual - inside and out.

So after one engine lost oil pressure and then failed completely; after one propeller couldn't be adjusted to balance the plane; after it was clear that there was no way to safely land, Zilberman ordered his crew to bail out.

He manually kept the Hawkeye stable as it plummeted toward the water, which allowed the three other men to escape.

Time ran out before he could follow.

Zilberman, 31, was declared dead three days later.

On Thursday, more than 250 sailors, officers, aviators and friends gathered to pay tribute to Zilberman at the Norfolk Naval Station chapel.

His widow, Katrina, was presented the Distinguished Flying Cross that her husband was awarded posthumously.
...
Zilberman followed an unlikely path to a Navy cockpit.

Born in Kiev, Ukraine, he was in sixth grade when his parents emigrated to the United States.

He enlisted in the Navy out of high school, telling a friend, "I didn't want my parents to pay for college. I wanted to do it all on my own."

Two years later, after serving as an electronics technician, Zilberman was selected for the Navy's "Seaman to Admiral" program.

He was commissioned in 2003 after graduating from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a degree in computer science.
...
The day before the crash, Mundy flew a mission to Afghanistan with Zilberman. To allay boredom on the flight, which lasted more than five hours, Zilberman and another crew member quizzed each other about organic chemistry. He'd brought some textbooks along on the deployment and was beginning to study for medical school entrance examinations.

"He was always trying to better himself," Mundy said. "He couldn't just sit back and relax."

Rabbi Michael Panitz explained that Zilberman's call sign - Abrek - has multiple meanings, although the buddies who bestowed it on him were certainly invoking the name of a Soviet space monkey sent into orbit before manned spaceflight.

In Russian, the name means "hero," or "valiant man," Panitz said. It also has meaning in Hebrew. In that language, Panitz said, Abrek means "noble one."

Zilberman is survived by his wife, Katrina; son,

Daniel, 4; and daughter, Sarah, 2, of Virginia Beach; and his parents, Boris and Anna Zilberman of Columbus, Ohio.
Thank you.

39 comments:

Byron said...

Godspeed, Abrek. You have fully lived up to  your name. May the Lord grant peace to those you leave behind.

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

Blast It! First something gets in my eyes and makes them all watery at Lex's and now here it happens again!   God Bless and keep the Zilbermans, they have kept the wolf from our door, and one of thiers gave his all for his crew, and therefore served Him well.

Skippy-san said...

That mishap was the third pitch lock incident in three years for the E-2 community, with the eight bladed prop.

MR T's Haircut said...

Fair winds Shipmate.

Andy said...

Shortly after LT Zilberman's mishap I stood with my congregation, as we always do, to begin the Mourner's Kaddish.  When the rabbi noted those who had recently passed and asked if anyone had anyone else to remember, I spoke his rank and name, causing puzzled looks to come from many of my politically far-left fellow congregants.  Yet, when asked who this person was when we had concluded services and I explained his story, even they were forced to agree, he exemplified a rich and noble tradition of struggle, acheivement and ultimate scarifice.

May he fly forever on wings unbound.

SJBill said...

Scott, you're right. it's worse over here, for sure. Something in the air as I'm coughing, too.
That last image is so difficult.
His family is new to our country and the LT gave all of himself.
Have a look down on us all Steve and guide us.

Byron said...

Sorry you couldn't say something positive.

LT B said...

It's not a bad post actually, Byron.  Skippy's link talks of the heroism in the face of what must have been scary as hell.  Then he gets into some of the aviation specific stuff w/ the craft.  That

LT B said...

That is how I took it at least.

Herbal said...

Abrek’s selfless sacrifice exemplifies the trust and responsibility we place on our young aircraft commanders.

With a crew of five flying an airplane with no ejection seats and without inflight refueling, the Hawkeye's aircraft commander bears the responsibility of bringing the aircrew back aboard safely on every flight regardless of the circumstances.  Each new aircraft commander carries that responsibility from the day he/she earns the qualification, and the squadron commander trusts him/her with that responsibility when the qualification letter is signed.

Abrek was a great young pilot.  Thankfully, we have many good aircraft commanders like Abrek out there protecting our freedoms and our fellow aviators each day...and night.

Thanks, Phib, for posting.

Herbal said...

I concur, LT B. Skippy captures it pretty well in his post. Worth reading.

Byron said...

Mea Culpa, I jumped the gun. Apologies tendered, Skippy.

Ron Snyder said...

Thank you LT.

What you did will not be forgotten.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

If only men like this comprised our immigration problem. 

The last full measure of devotion to his adopted country, his Navy, and his crew. 

And maybe I am wrong, but for the life of me I don't know why LT Zilberman's widow was not presented with a Congressional Medal of Honor.  He saved those three lives as sure as if he covered a grenade. 

DeltaBravo said...

Here, I'm going to like this one twice.

ewok40k said...

Great man, great pilot... No love greater than to give your life for your friends...
May I add, there are many among those who immigrate to the US that find their sense of duty to the new homeland very strong. Stories of Nisei soldiers from WW2, for example.
America has a great gift, a magnetic way to draw in good men seeking freedom.

DeltaBravo said...

Thank you very much for that clear explanation, Skippy.  Makes it clear exactly what a hero this man was!

virgil xenophon said...

URR/

Agree. The first thing I thought of was Colin Kelly who did the same thing to allow the crew of his battle-damaged AAF B-17 to escape during the Battle of the Coral Sea in WWII and who was awarded the CMOH.

Of course, the diff. was that Kelly's B-17 had sustained battle damage and he dove the aircraft into and sank what was thought at the time to be a BB. (turned out it was a tanker--probably MORE valuable in the long run)

Still, this event DID happen on a combat mission and I've always said that the decision Colin Kelly deserved the MOH for was the initial decision to stay with the aircraft--the dive into the ship a secondary automatic no-brainer once the die was cast--and so it should be here in this instance with Lt. Zilberman.

virgil xenophon said...

PS: Of course political considerations could be at play here, what with an anti-war, anti-military majority in Congress and an Administration which wants to play down the war in the public mind to concentrate on its domestic agenda. The DFC is the highest award that may be made by the DOD without Congressional approval/authorization.

Kristen said...

Ewok, what a beautiful comment.  As I was reading through the post I was mentally fumbling toward something like that, but you phrased it so perfectly.  It is indeed America's great gift to draw in men like LT Zilberman.

ShawnP said...

In a world of self absored celebrities and others. The good Lt. showed what a true hero is these days.

Grandpa Bluewater said...

Rest in peace.  Deepest sympathy and condolences for his wife, children and family.
May God bless you and keep you until you are reunited with him in heaven.
He shall not grow old as we grow old, but remain forever young, brave and noble.

Officer, gentleman, aviator, his example humbles us all.

sid said...

<span> Unto God‘s gracious mercy and protection we commit you. The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace, both now and evermore. Amen.</span>

AW1 Tim said...

Ondeed. Thank you for those comments.

Skippy-san said...

No problems. I meant no disrespect to anyone-least of all LT Zilberman. It is just that being from the E-2 community this is particularly close for me.

AW1 Tim said...

Quiet dignity, and a life lived full.

 I can't help but note that it is this good officer who ought to have a vessel bear his name, rather than the late Congressman Murtha. 

 God Bless him, and his family.

JimmyMac said...

"Where do we get such men?"  RADM Tarrant, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, James Michener

Skippy-san said...

I'll bet there is a way to start a petition drive to get a ship named after him-or at the least one of the facilties at Norfolk NAS. A DDG named for him would be a great thing.

Skippy-san said...

He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and I do know that was presented to his wife.

Kristen said...

Amen.

cdrsalamander said...

JM,
If you want to listen to the real thing, Sunday 23 May from 5=6pm EST EagleOne and I will be interviewing Korean War Medal of Honor winner CAPT Tom Hudner and author of the book SUCH MEN AS THESE, David Sears.

KZnextzone said...

On behalf of a grateful nation

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Wharf Rat said...

Question:  We are commissioning a ship (DDG) in 2010 named after the first Medal Of Honor winner in the Afgan war - rest his soul, and one is being built for another in the Iraq war - if memory serves.

Did this aviator not do the same thing for his crew - save their lives?  I'm hoping he's a MOH winner.

mark said...

Immigrant hell, he is America.  Plenty of those like him too.  Native or foreign born, the absolute best of all.  I have a son equal in age to his, I'm humbled by his sacrifice. 
By the way, Great post Skppy-San, lessons learned go a long way.

Schlippy said...

I have nothing to say, but Thank You.

SNAnonymous said...

A true American hero.

DG said...

Because our current criteria for awarding the MOH is screwed up, IMHO

Skyler said...

Fair winds Shipmate.