Kirtland to rename street for fallen warrior

  • Published
  • By Stefan Bocchino
  • 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Kirtland Air Force Base officials will rename a base street April 3 in honor of a fallen warrior.

The ceremony changing the name of M Street to Griffin Avenue in honor of a fallen security forces defender, Staff Sgt. Travis L. Griffin, will be at 10 a.m. at Building 20412, the security forces logistics building.

The ceremony's date commemorates the fourth anniversary of his death, when he was killed in action by a roadside bomb while deployed with the 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron in Baghdad, Iraq.

Griffin entered the Air Force and went to basic military training in June 1999. He went to his first permanent duty station at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., in October 2000, where he served as a fire team leader with the 822nd Security Forces Squadron. In September 2003, he transferred to Kirtland AFB, joining the 377th Security Forces Squadron.

A former colleague recalled her experience with Griffin.

"I was stationed here with Travis when I was on active duty," said Mirella Bidgood, 377th Security Forces Squadron security specialist. "My husband, at the time, knew him and our kids were the same age, so we hung out together sometimes after work. He was awesome. He was a helper; he would do anything for anybody. He would put people first."

Bidgood said she remembers a time when Griffin helped her while her husband was deployed.

"I was about six or seven months pregnant and had to move on base," said Bidgood. "So I had a bunch of people trying to help me move. After everyone had left, he stayed and put pictures on the wall, set up my bed and arranged my furniture. I remember him always being upbeat and having a smile on his face."

Griffin supervised Staff Sgt. Niles Bartram, 377th Weapons Systems Security Squadron, when Bartram arrived at Kirtland AFB as an airman first class.

"He was a firm leader who set the standard," said Bartram. "He was an incredible leader. Anything he had us do, he was willing to do with us. We knew if we ever needed anything we could go to him. He got me well prepared for my job. He was the best NCO in our unit. There is no other person I would rather have been mentored by as a young Airman than Sergeant Griffin."

While stationed here, Griffin was a security forces instructor. His duties included instructing the 550 security forces Airmen on security requirements. He was a key member of the base's deployment training center, where he instructed more than 300 Airmen in combat operations.

"He was very dedicated to the tasks at hand," said Nikolas Chapapas, currently serving as the 377th Civil Engineering Readiness emergency manager and formerly 377th Security Forces Squadron commander during Griffin's service here. "He was always spending time with his family, but when he was at work he was 100 percent at work. He was our trainer, and when students came through, he was completely dedicated to their learning."

He was a deployment trainer and ensured that Airmen deploying knew what they needed to know in order to effectively deploy, said Chapapas.

"During a family event we held one time, Kevin Eberhart, my operations officer, told me that he brought one of his kids, too," said Chapapas. "Travis took to him right away, hanging out with him and doing stuff with him. This was one of those typical police events that boys think is neat, and they both ate it up. It was an amazing event."

After Griffin's death, people posted pictures and talked about their memories of him that gave me a picture that as a commander I might never have otherwise, said Chapapas.

"It was obvious he had a strong personal connection with a number of people in the squadron," said Chapapas. "Young people came to him for advice, while his peers and colleagues had great confidence in him. A good testament to that when his Humvee was hit, the Army medic who tried to save his life also attended his funeral in Ohio. It was very obvious that he made some of those same connections with the people he deployed with."

For his final mission, Griffin was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, a Purple Heart Medal and the Air Force Combat Action Medal.

"There was a lot of sadness and disbelief when word came of Travis's death," said Chapapas. "For some, it brought home what kind of business people in uniform accomplish."

A memorial service for Griffin at the base chapel took place after his death.

"The entire base was soaked in sadness," said Bartram. "I remember the Freedom Riders lined the entire church. We lined up our whole squadron outside. You could not pack one more person into the church. Everyone was there to honor him."