Swan 38 Memorial Scholarship deadline May 1

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kristen Pittman

The Hurricane Hunter Association (HHA) is awarding three Swan 38 Memorial Scholarships for the 2023 fall semester, and the deadline to apply is May 1. Each winner will receive $2,000 to go toward their undergraduate or graduate education.

“Each year, the association, a private group of former and current Hurricane Hunters, offers the scholarships to eligible 403rd Wing members, past and present, as well as their dependents, for the pursuit of higher education,” said Capt. Sarah Olsen, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron aerial reconnaissance weather officer and Chair of the HHA Scholarship Committee.

“This year is special for the Swan 38 Scholarship because of conversations I had with Lt Col (Ret) Tom Ross, the son of Col. Franklin Ross, the squadron commander of the 54th WRS when Swan 38 was lost,” said Olsen. “Tom shared with me some of the stories and photos of his father’s time commanding the 54th WRS, which I was able to compile and share with my squadron. These stories give us incredibly valuable insight into the history of weather reconnaissance and help capture the true vision behind the scholarship.”

The Swan 38 crew, assigned to the Air Force’s 54th WRS flying out of Clark Air Base in the Philippines, was lost during a reconnaissance mission into Typhoon Bess over the South China Sea Oct. 12, 1974. The crew was flying an Air Force WC-130H, tail number 65-0965 with the call sign Swan 38 and preparing for their second pass through the typhoon when radio communication was lost. No emergency communications were received, and after four days of searching, debris was found but there were no survivors.

This was the last reconnaissance flight and the only C-130 lost in a tropical cyclone, according to the NOAA Hurricane Research Division. The Swan 38 crew members were: Capt. Edward R. Bushnell, 1st Lt. Gary W. Crass, 1st Lt. Michael P. O'Brien, 1st Lt. Timothy J. Hoffman, Tech. Sgt. Kenneth G. Suhr, and Sgt. Detlef W. Ringler.

In honor of their parents, Col. Franklin Ross and Rosalyn Ross, who passed away just 15 days apart in January 2023 at the ages of 94 and 93 years old, Tom and his sister, Lora, made a $6,000 donation to the Swan 38 Memorial Scholarship fund, allowing the HHA to double the amount awarded in previous years.

“We’re just so incredibly grateful to Tom and Lora for their generosity and for sharing their family’s incredible stories of service with us,” said Olsen.

Today, the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron is the only Department of Defense unit that annually flies weather reconnaissance missions into severe tropical weather from Jun 1 to Nov 30, to gather data for the National Hurricane Center to improve their forecasts and storm warnings. However, in the past it was a mission that was flown by several units in the Air Force and Navy.

“The scholarship honors the commitment and ultimate sacrifice made by the Swan 38 crew while serving our country,” said Olsen. “It also stands as a reminder of the importance of our mission and allows us to give back to members of the 403rd Wing and their families. In honor of those lost Airmen, scholarship recipients are chosen based on their academic achievement, strong moral character, leadership traits, and dedication to serve others.”

Applicants must have been accepted for undergraduate or graduate enrollment at a regionally accredited two-or-four-year U.S. college or university and maintained a grade point average of 3.0 or higher for the previous five semesters. Individuals must also complete the application, submit a 500-word essay explaining their career goals, and provide two letters of recommendations along with the most recent copy of official college or high school transcripts. Additional details about the requirements can be found at: https://www.hurricanehunters.org/scholarship.

Elijah Barberi, one of two Swan 38 scholarship winners last year, said it was his first competitive scholarship essay he had written and put in for.

“When I learned I won, I couldn’t believe it. I was ecstatic,” he said. “I’m grateful to the association for choosing me. It definitely helped with my first year of expenses.”

Barberi, a 2022 graduate of Ocean Springs High school and son of 815th Airlift Squadron pilot Lt. Col. Dominic Barberi, put his scholarship toward his freshman year at Pearl River Community College in Poplarville, Miss., where he is studying nursing and health science.

All scholarship application packages are due by email to the Hurricane Hunter Association (hurricanehunterassociation@gmail.com) by May 1.

For additional information, contact Capt.Olsen at sarah.olsen.2@us.af.mil.