Graduate of South-Doyle and Carson Newman killed in Iraq crash
A graduate of South-Doyle High School has died in Iraq.
Tennessee's Adjutant General Major General Max Haston confirms that two Tennessee Army National Guard pilots were killed Sunday in a helicopter accident in Iraq.
Captain Marcus Ray Alford, of Knoxville, and Chief Warrant Officer Two Billie Jean Grinder, of Gallatin, were killed when their OH-58D Kiowa Warrior made a "hard landing" near Qayyarah Airfield West (Q-West) about 30 miles south of Mosul in Northern Iraq.
No enemy forces were present, and no hostile fire was reported.
The soldiers were assigned to Troop C, 1/230th Air Cavalry in Louisville, Tennessee.
They were part of Task Force Marne, a unit responsible for U.S. Operation in Northern Iraq.
Those who knew him said Marcus Alford had a great sense of humor. He was voted "wittiest senior" at South Doyle High School.
He was battalion commander of the ROTC there, and after he graduated in 2000 Alford made a point to come back and share his experience with students in the ROTC program.
"He had the stamina to endure even though things might not go his way, and he was willing to share that with the kids," South Doyle ROTC's 1st Sgt. Calvin Hartwell said. "He let them know that he struggled to get through things, yet he didn't give up."
Hartwell remembers a mature young man who was enthusiastic and determined.
"He had a rough time in flight school. He had to keep going, keep going," Hartwell said.
Marcus Alford earned an ROTC scholarship to Carson Newman College, where he majored in computer information systems and graduated in 2004.
"He was a natural leader in the way he dealt with people and issues," Associate Professor Bob Terrell said.
He was Alford's primary professor, and remembers an ambitious student who put people at ease.
"Just be the nicest person you'd ever want, then he'd be business if it was business," Terrell said. "A very likable man and a very capable fellow."
His loss is hard for those who taught him.
"Marcus was doing what he wanted to do," Terrell said. "And we trained him and did the best we could with him, and now we'll mourn his passing and be in honor of his life."
Hartwell said, "If you had a son and you could pick him, you'd kind of want him to be Marcus."
Immediate family members were in Dover, Delaware, on Tuesday to greet Alford's remains as his body arrived at Dover Air Force Base.
Jarnigan and Sons in Knoxville is working with Willis Funeral Home in Dalton, Georgia to finalize arrangements.
Family members say Alford will be buried in Knoxville.