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Pittsfield airman ‘was the glue’ that kept his family, friends close, relatives say

Kim Krautter, mother of Jacob Galliher, and other family and friends gathered on at the home of Jacob’s father, Jon Galliher, in Pittsfield last week to mourn the loss of the young airman.Matthew Cavanaugh/For The Boston Globe

PITTSFIELD — At each stage of his life, US Air Force Staff Sergeant Jacob M. Galliher made a deep impression on the people who surrounded him, whether on a youth football field, as captain of his high school football team, or on a helicopter mission across the world.

It is these lasting memories that now comfort his family and friends as they mourn the 24-year-old killed on Nov. 29 in a military helicopter crash off the coast of southern Japan.

His wife, Ivy, had given birth just weeks earlier to their second son, Killian, who made a big brother out of Malcolm, age 2. Galliher’s father posted a picture of a smiling Jacob holding his newborn on Facebook.

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Galliher and seven other crew members were on a training mission when the V-22 Osprey they were flying went down off Yakushima Island, killing all on board.

The crash prompted the US military to take the extraordinary step of grounding the Osprey fleet, which has had a problematic history that includes several recent fatal crashes.

In an interview at his childhood home, Galliher’s family spoke of their unbreakable bond with a loving son, brother, and nephew who grew up to be a model airman.

“He was the glue for everybody in all of his circles,” his stepfather, Tor Krautter, said.

The family of Jacob Galliher, the airman who died in an Osprey helicopter crash off Japan last month, pose with a photo of Jacob at the home of Jacob’s father Jon Galliher in Pittsfield on Thursday. Pictured here are (Back row L to R) step father Tor Krautter, mother Kim Krautter, Uncle Paul Galliher, step mother Virgin Galliher, Jacob’s father, Jon Galliher, (Front row L to R) Sister Courtney Beauchamp and sister Jadyn Galliher. Matthew Cavanaugh/For The Boston Globe

A memorial in the living room with bouquets of flowers surrounds his official Air Force portrait. A set of rosary beads dangles from the frame’s upper left corner. To the left is a photo of Galliher in his green Taconic High School football uniform, and to the right is his school picture from second grade.

“He always entered a room with a smile on his face,” his mother, Kim Krautter, said.

Jon Galliher said the camaraderie his son had with his football teammates likely influenced his decision to join the military after graduating high school in 2017.

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“He loved football, and football is like a family,” he said. “I think that’s what he really liked about [the Air Force] was how close he became with everybody.”

Jacob Galliher was a direct support operator assigned to a tenant unit at Yokota Air Base in support of the 353rd Special Operations Wing, according to the Air Force. He earned a degree in intelligence studies from the Community College of the Air Force and was pursuing a bachelor’s in East Asian studies, the Air Force said.

A memorial for Jacob Galliher is set up at the Pittsfield home of his father, Jon. “Everywhere he went, and everyone he met, was made better for him being there. He has left an indelible mark as a devoted family man, steadfast wingman, and an irreplaceable Airman in both duty and compassion" Air Force Major Gilbert Summers said. Matthew Cavanaugh/For The Boston Globe

As a direct support operator, he served as an airborne linguist specializing in Chinese-Mandarin. “With a ready smile, Jake brought the unit together on and off-duty through humor and an inexhaustible supply of energy, whether it was on the aircraft, in the gym, or on the slopes with the team,” Air Force Major Gilbert Summers said in a statement.

“Everywhere he went, and everyone he met, was made better for him being there. He has left an indelible mark as a devoted family man, steadfast wingman, and an irreplaceable Airman in both duty and compassion.”

A preliminary investigation has indicated a material failure caused the crash, not a mistake by the crew.

The aircraft, which is also operated by the Navy and Marine Corps, is unique in its ability to tilt its propellers and cruise like an airplane. But in the years since the first Ospreys became operational in 2007, they’ve had numerous problems. More than 50 troops have died while either testing the aircraft or conducting training flights, including 20 deaths in the past 20 months.

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Among those were Marine Captain Ross Reynolds of Leominster and Marine Captain Nicholas Losapio of Kensington, N.H., who died in separate Osprey crashes in 2022.

During a hearing Wednesday of the Senate Committee on Armed Services’ Subcommittee on Personnel, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren pressed for the military to halt operations of its Osprey helicopters.

“My heart still aches for the family of Pittsfield native Staff Sgt. Jacob Galliher. I have urged the military to take these safety issues seriously, and am glad they are listening and grounding this fleet of aircraft—too many brave service members have already died from its failures,” Warren said in a statement Friday.

Galliher’s family declined to comment on the fleet’s grounding.

Courtney Beauchamp, his older sister by eight years, recalled how excited she was to have a baby brother when she was a child.

“I used to pretend he was my baby,” she said. “I just adored him. He was always just happy and full of energy.”

Galliher also served as a role model to his sister Jadyn, who is a junior at Taconic High School.

“Every grade I come up to, [I’m asked], ‘Are you Jake’s little sister?’” she said. “I have friends who met him once and they would be like, ‘I want to live my life exactly how he does.’ ... I just look up to him so much.”

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Jadyn said her brother had been encouraging her to decide which colleges she wanted to apply to. “We had that conversation ... and he was like, ‘You better start thinking quick or else you’re gonna end up in the Air Force,’” she said, recalling how they would joke with each other.

In high school, Galliher was a leader. As a freshman, he briefly played quarterback on the varsity football team. He gracefully accepted a move to running back, a former teacher said.

“Jake, being who he was, knew how important that role was, and he played like his team needed him to,” said Heather McNeice, a former Taconic High School teacher who ran the booster club.

By senior year, Galliher was a team captain, leading Taconic to the state semifinals. He was a die-hard New England Patriots fan and the team’s “Do Your Job” motto resonated with him, his father said.

Galliher admired the gritty determination of Boston athletes. When the Bruins were in the 2013 playoffs, Patrice Bergeron played with cracked ribs and a punctured lung. Gregory Campbell stayed on the ice with a broken leg until his shift was finished.

“Those are people that he really looked up to,” he said.

Jon Galliher, seated in his Pittsfield home, recalled his son, Jacob's youth in the Western Massachusetts city. Jacob grew up playing youth football and was captain of the football team at Taconic High School. At left is his daughter, Jadyn, and wife, Virgin.Matthew Cavanaugh/For The Boston Globe

Zach Gage grew up down the street from Galliher and had been close with him since elementary school. They went on to play football together at Taconic and stayed in touch after Galliher joined the Air Force.

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Gage said he was amazed by Galliher’s ability to maintain regular contact with his friends and family back home while serving in Japan and raising a family of his own with his wife.

“Even when he was in different time zones, his balance in life was incredible,” Gage said.

“The one thing that was really inspiring about Jake is that he just loved life and he lived it to the fullest,” he said. “He was incredibly funny, and he just knew how to make the people that were around him feel good.”

Galliher’s wife, Ivy Groshong-Galliher, praised him on social media as “one of the strongest people I have ever known.”

“His boys will grow up with all the amazing memories of him . . . knowing he loved them more than the world and know that their daddy was not only a warrior but an incredibly special individual,” she wrote.

“I truly hope they turn out just like him.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.


Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com.