USMC Nighthawk-72 Memorial Improvements

A Marine color guard participates in the ceremony to honor those who perished in the April 8, 2000 crash of a MV-22 Osprey Tilt rotor aircraft at the Marana Regional Airport.

A Marine color guard participates in the ceremony to honor those who perished in the April 8, 2000 crash of a MV-22 Osprey Tilt rotor aircraft at the Marana Regional Airport.

Friends of Nighthawk-72 along with the Town of Marana and the Marana Regional Airport are making improvements to the existing roadside memorial that is located at the intersection of Avra Valley and Sandario Roads. The memorial honors those who perished in the April 8, 2000 crash of a MV-22 Osprey Tilt rotor aircraft at the Marana Regional Airport.

The improvements are scheduled to take place in two phases beginning March 16, 2019. The project is expected to be completed by April 2020.


Phase One: The existing memorial, flagpole and benches will be relocated slightly northeast of their current location. The new location is in-line with the actual crash site of the MV-22 Osprey Tilt rotor aircraft.

Phase Two: A sidewalk and pentagon area will be added that will have bronze markers of the 4 USMC units that were involved in the accident.

Skilled and unskilled volunteers are needed on March 16 to assist in the relocation of the memorial, and there will be more volunteer opportunities in the future.

Fundraising is being handled by Friends of Nighthawk-72, a non-profit organization working closely with
Nighthawk-72 Marana Detachment #1344 Marine Corps League, Town of Marana, and Marana Regional Airport.

The 19th Annual Memorial Service will be held April 6, 2019 at 10 am.

Once the existing memorial is moved and improvements are made, the goal is to transform the existing memorial into an official National Memorial and park.

For additional information or to volunteer contact: Terry Byron (520) 982-0023, and

Additional Background Information
The MV-22 Osprey Tilt rotor aircraft was conducting a training mission in support of Operational Evaluation (OPEVAL) when it went down at the Marana Regional Airport in Marana, Arizona on April 8, 2000. During the mission, the crew and Marines conducted Non-combatant Evacuation Operations (NEO) exercises as part of the Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course, with Marines embarking and disembarking the aircraft. The mission was conducted at night utilizing night vision goggles and forward-looking infrared radar to enhance night operational capability. This mishap aircraft was part of the Multiservice Operational Test Team, based at Patuxent River, Maryland, but was temporarily attached to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron-1 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona.

The 19 Marines Lost are as follows:

3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division

Sgt. Jose Alvarez, 28                              Pfc. Gabriel C. Clevenger, 21                              Pfc. Alfred Corona, 23

Lance Cpl. Jason T. Duke, 28.                Lance Cpl. Jesus Gonzalez Sanchez, 27            Lance Cpl. Seth G. Jones, 18
2nd Lt. Clayton J. Kennedy, 24             Lance Cpl. Jorge A. Morin, 21                             Cpl. Adam C. Neely, 22     
Pfc. Kenneth O. Paddio, 23     Pfc. George P. Santos, 24                             Lance Cpl. Keoki P. Santos, 24
Cpl. Can Soler, 21                                   Pvt. Adam L. Tatro, 19

Marine Wing Communications Squadron 38, Marine Air Control Group 38

Cpl. Eric J. Martinez, 21

Marine Helicopter Squadron 1
Maj. John A. Brow, 39                             Maj. Brooks S. Gruber, 34                                   Cpl. Kelly S. Keith, 22

Marine Tilt-Rotor Training Squadron 204
Staff Sgt. William B. Nelson, 30

Marana Airport host Wright Flight student pilots


The Marana Regional Airport played host to 21 students from Estes Elementary School who were participating in the Wright Flight Program on Friday, November 3. The Marana Unified School District students were not only getting to fly in airplanes, but actually take the controls.

Wright Flight is dedicated to “helping kids reach new heights” in both their classrooms and their personal lives. Wright Flight is a motivational program that teaches today’s youth how to set goals and achieve them. In this case, the goal is to pilot an airplane.

The Wright Flight program teaches that with hard-work, diligence, and focus no goal is out of reach — not even becoming a pilot. Students in the program must not only improve academically or behaviorally, but those who are already excelling can set a personal goal such as doing more community service. The students make a contract with their parents and teachers that has a tangible objective and steps to meet that objective.


In addition, students must make a pledge to remain drug and alcohol free and complete the Wright Flight curriculum, including passing a final test with an 85%. The students who few on Friday had all taken an aviation history class and also had safety training to fly the planes.

Only students who work hard enough to meet their goals and pass the course earn the right to fly. In Southern Arizona only about 75% of those participating in the program make it to the capstone event of Flyday.

The Marana Regional Airport has recently begun hosting Wright Flight events to help the organization handle all of the necessary flights. There are over 1,000 students enrolled in the program in Southern Arizona.

Volunteer pilots take the students up into the air and then turn the controls over to them once they are in the air. The pilots come from a variety of backgrounds including commercial aviation, current and former military, and general aviation enthusiasts. Some donate planes for the project, while Wright Flight also has some of their own.