Combat flag in Lovell

A solemn and meaningful ceremony was held at the Lovell Police Dept. Sunday morning in honor of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and of those serving in the military overseas.

Members of the Lovell Police Dept. and three other law enforcement agencies gathered at the North Big Horn County Annex for a 9/11 flag ceremony Sunday morning commemorating a display featuring a flag (pictured above) carried into battle by Airman Stuart Yates on 9/11/10 over Afghanistan. Officers Randy Davis and Matt Koritnik take down the existing flag at the annex.

Four law enforcement agencies were represented at the ceremony during which a flag that flew on a combat mission over Afghanistan was raised and flew on the flagpole at the LPD for a day before being returned for display in the annex lobby.

The flag was presented last fall to the LPD by Stuart Levi Yates, a 2002 Rocky Mountain High School graduate.Yates is the son-in-law of Lovell police officer Noe Garcia, who organized Sunday’s dedication ceremony.

Yates, who is married to Noe’s daughter Natasha Garcia Yates, is a senior airman in the U.S. Air Force. He was serving in Afghanistan a year ago when the flag was carried aboard his airplane during a reconnaissance/surveillance mission on 9/11/10, the ninth anniversary of the attacks in New York and Washington.

Stuart and Natasha now live in Oklahoma City, where Stuart is stationed at Tinker Air Force Base.

When the bound-for-Lovell flag flew on an Afghanistan mission, Yates was a senior operator aboard an MC-12, the Air Force’s newest manned intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance plane, flying with the 4th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron.

“A lot of people ask what makes the MC-12 better than the unmanned planes and the answer is simple. It’s manned,” Yates said in an e-mail to Noe. “We’re not halfway around the world sitting in a box, we’re right over top of the guys on the ground.”

The display in the annex lobby will include the flag, a certificate of the flag’s ride aboard the MC-12 and four patches: a U.S. Air Force Central Command patch, a squadron patch for the 4th ERS, which carries the motto “Looking for Trouble,” a wing patch for the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing and a small morale patch.

Sunday’s 8 a.m. ceremony around the flagpole in front of the annex included officers and dispatchers from the Lovell Police Dept. and officers from the Byron Police Dept., the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office and the National Park Service.

Yates said he will be promoted to staff sergeant in December and is looking into retraining into some form of law enforcement.

By David Peck