"And Karl was top-notch." But during the hours the crew was grounded, on an isolated airbase simmering at 115 degrees, Hoerig opened up about the recent end of a marriage that had lasted 10 years and produced a young son and daughter. Once the gulf tour was complete, the two continued to see each other around the base, eventually losing touch after Diemand retired in 2000.But like many who crossed paths with Hoerig, the elder pilot tucked away fond memories of the encounter.It's how he remembered Hoerig seven years later when he heard the news.
At the helm of a C130 cargo plane, he was co-pilot for mission commander Larry Diemand, both part of the Air Force Reserve 910th Airlift Wing based out of Youngstown.
Reservists have an active gig: They work day jobs and fly regularly at the base, then saddle up for extended treks around the world.
In Saudi Arabia, the unit was part of a month-long mission to enforce a no-fly zone on Iraq, a high-velocity chess match that came with the threat of combat.
Diemand and Hoerig had been friendly back home, but in the gulf the two grew close.
Hoerig was a good-looking and popular 34-year-old with a high-watt smile.
The unit wit, he lightened the mood with one-liners delivered through the intercom.
Above all, he was an incredibly capable pilot — particularly in tense situations, like the time their plane was intercepted by Iranian fighters who peeled back just before an incident.
"When you go in a theater like that, you really want the most experienced air crew you can get," Diemand says.
The plane touches down early on Monday morning, March 12, 2007.
He spent the weekend steering jetliners up and down the eastern seaboard, but on this flight the 44-year-old pilot is now a passenger on his ride home.
Once his feet are back on Cleveland soil, he begins his drive east to Newton Falls in rural Trumbull County. After a number of fumbled tries, he's decided today is the day he will end it.