Kirtland Air Force Base Dedicates Four Enlisted Dormitories

  • Published
  • By WIng Historians Office
  • 377th Air Base Wing Historians Office

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- In a ceremony on June 14, the 377th Air Base Wing and members of Team Kirtland along with family and friends dedicated Kirtland Air Force Base’s dormitories to four historically significant enlisted figures in Air Force history.  Family members of A2C George M. Bevich, Jr., Master Sgt. (ret) John E. Allen, Senior Airman Jason D. Cunningham, and Staff Sgt. Anissa A. Shero each unveiled plaques that will be placed on their respective buildings to honor each of these Airmen for their unique place in the Air Force story and U.S. military history.

“Memorialization of a building on an Air Force base is no small matter,” said Col. Jason Vattioni, 377th Air Base Wing and installation commander.  “Through memorialization, we dedicate space to commemorate those who represent the best of what the U.S. Air Force has to offer. In doing so, we ensure that their bravery, service, and sacrifice will serve as an example for all to remember and emulate long after our own watch has ended.”

Master Sgt. Allen gave 54 years of dedicated service to the Air Force.  Joining in 1945, he first trained as a pilot with the famed 332d Fighter Group of the Tuskegee Airmen, then embarked on a long active duty career as a munitions technician following a short break in service.  Following his retirement, he moved to Albuquerque and joined the workforce here at Kirtland.He eventually completed his civilian career in the Weapons Safety office of the 377th ABW. Master Sgt. Allen helped found the local General Lloyd “Fig” Newton chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen Association. He became a popular speaker in his retired years on the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen and the struggle for civil rights for Black Americans during and after World War II.

A2C Bevich served as a military working dog handler with the 377th Air Police Squadron at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Republic of Vietnam.  On December 4, 1966, Bevich and his dog Rex spotted an infiltrating force of Viet Cong at the base’s perimeter.  He immediately raised the alarm and engaged the enemy. Along with several other military working dog teams, they ultimately successfully defended the base and its personnel. A2C Bevich was killed when a mortar struck his jeep, becoming the first Air Force military working dog handler to lose his life in Vietnam. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his role in saving the base from the attack.

Senior Airman Cunningham, born in Carlsbad, New Mexico, served a stint in the U.S. Navy following his high school graduation. He decided he wanted to save lives and re-enlisted in the U.S. Air Force as a pararescueman, ultimately graduating from the Pararescue Schoolhouse at Kirtland upon completing one of the most grueling training programs in the military.  On March 4, 2002, during the Battle of Roberts Ridge, Cunningham embodied the Rescue community’s motto, “These Things We Do, That Others May Live,” by repeatedly exposing himself to danger to ensure that his teammates received life-saving medical treatment and protection from enemy fire, even after suffering from mortal wounds.  Cunningham was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross in September 2002 for his actions in service.

Staff Sgt. Shero enlisted in the Air Force in March 1992 as a C-130 loadmaster, crossing over to the special operations community in the same capacity in August 2001. She completed mission qualification training with the 58th Special Operations Wing at Kirtland AFB.  On the night of June 13, 2002, Staff Sgt. Shero participated in an exfiltration of an Army Special Forces team from a village near Sardeh Band, Afghanistan.  Due to the high altitude and uneven landing area, a second takeoff had to be attempted, and Shero advised two of the Army soldiers to buckle up in anticipation of a rough takeoff.  She became the first female Airman to lose her life in Operation Enduring Freedom when the plane ultimately crashed on attempting the second takeoff. With her keen eye and concern for her team members, the two Army soldiers survived the crash with only minor injuries.

The ceremony culminated a process that took nearly two years to come to fruition, beginning in August 2020 when then-Dorm Resident Leader Technical Sgt. Margueriete Pinnix and 377th ABW Historian Christopher McCune first met to discuss the project. 

“As Colonel Vattioni indicated, memorialization has to be conducted with the utmost care and seriousness,” McCune said. “Because these dedications are permanent, we have a deep responsibility to nominate individuals that will inspire current and future Airmen to add to a tradition of honor and courage that marked the lives of these individuals.  Hopefully, the more our Airmen learn of this history, the more they will strive to dedicate themselves to our heritage and core values, and be an example for others to follow, as well.”