Major Troy “Trojan” Gilbert, a US Air Force F-16 Fighter Pilot with over 1000 flying hours, stationed at Luke AFB as the 309th Fighter Squadron Assistant Director of Operations and deployed to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Balad Air Base, Iraq was a man among men. Troy was the son of a proud military family. He was a devout Christian, a loving husband to Ginger and a devoted father to their five children; Boston (age 8 at his time of death), Greyson (age 6), Isabella (age 3), Aspen and Annalise (ages 9 months). He was a great warrior and a sterling example of service before self.
His love and respect for his wife and family spoke volumes as to how he lived his life. No matter how demanding his professional schedule became, Troy always made time to involve himself in his family and church life. He would take his boys camping, practice ballet with his daughter and then find the energy to help take care of his twin baby girls. He actively served in his local church and developed the church’s welcome ministry and visitor center all by himself. His warm and friendly Texas-boy nature was always evident as he looked for an opportunity to help others and share his faith. He was known in professional Air Force circles to be the officer everyone could count on and a model fighter pilot to his students.
He lived his life selflessly as he served and cared for others as evidenced in his twelve years of service with the Air Force and his ultimate sacrifice in saving the lives of his fellow servicemen. On November 27, 2006, Major Gilbert was killed in action protecting others. He had already completed 21 combat sorties in the F-16 supporting ground forces under enemy fire during his 3-month-long deployment. On one mission, he found and identified anti-Iraqi forces, then passed critical targeting information to coalition forces, which attacked and eliminated the threat. In another time-sensitive mission, Major Gilbert destroyed 10 insurgents concealed in a palm grove with the pinpoint delivery of a laser-guided weapon.
On the day he died, Major Gilbert heroically led a flight of two F-16s in an aerial combat mission near Tajo, Iraq. On the ground, insurgents were unleashing truck-mounted heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, small arms fire and mortars to attack coalition troops. In addition, a downed Army helicopter crew was in danger of being overrun. Engaging the enemy meant certain anti-aircraft fire for Major Gilbert, but despite the danger, he went after the insurgents. He launched a strafing attack against the truck, destroying it with his 20-mm Gatling gun. Despite enemy fire, Major Gilbert continued to press the insurgents with a second strafing pass at extreme low-level altitudes to help save lives of the helicopter crew and other ground forces while committing to not harm innocent civilians. He lost his life on that low 2nd strafing pass when his aircraft hit the ground. His heroic actions that day saved 22 lives. Major Gilbert’s body was tragically taken by Iraqi insurgents and never recovered. His DNA is laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, VA. Troy posthumously earned many awards that day including the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor and the Purple Heart.
Major Gilbert’s final act of moral and physical courage was conducted selflessly and with honorable bravery. Americans’ way of life and security of the country continue, in part, due to Troy’s commitment to noble acts on Nov. 27th. His spirit lives on through memories and stories that will be told over and over by his loved ones and the many whose lives he touched. Over 1800 people attended Troy’s memorial service in Phoenix, AZ. Over 300 attended his honorable burial in Arlington National Cemetery. And over 500 military personnel from all four branches of service attended a memorial for him in Balad, Iraq. Troy’s legacy as a man of God, family man, and national hero lives in on his wife and children.
After Troy’s death, the family was so blessed by the financial help of others that they have begun the Gilbert Family Legacy Fund through the Fighter Country Partnership in order to aid others stationed at Luke AFB in their times of crisis’.
His wife, Ginger, remarried in May 2008. Her new husband, Colonel Jim Ravella, an F-15E pilot, lost his wife to a long battle with breast cancer. Jim has two sons, ages 16 and 23. They feel blessed to have joined their journeys of suffering and healing and found joy again. Jim and Ginger write about their experiences in their blog jravella.blogspot.com. With their combined stories of loss and hope, they plan to have a speaking and writing ministry to encourage others. Jim is currently active duty and they and their six children reside in San Antonio, TX.