MATTHEW S. SHUBZDA, LT, USN
Matthew Shubzda '98
Date of birth: September 17, 1975
Date of death: October 18, 2002
From the 1998 Lucky Bag:
Lieutenant Matthew “Shooby” Shubzda died on October 18, 2002 during a training exercise in which he was simulating combat flying and his F/A-18F Super Hornet crashed into the Pacific Ocean 80 miles southwest of Monterey. Lt. Shubzda graduated from Naaman Forest High School as the star quarterback and sixth in his class, with a 4.26 GPA. He went on to study at the United States Naval Academy, pursuing the lifelong dream of becoming a Navy pilot.
Lt. Shubzda was a persevering and outstanding youth who maintained very close relationships with his family. His younger brother followed him to the Naval Academy and was in the process of earning his pilot wings at the time of Lt. Shubzda’s death. The late Lieutenant also had a last love of football, which he played through high school and during his time at the Naval Academy. Lieutenant Matthew Shubzda is survived by his high school sweetheart – who he had made his wife in the June before his death – as well as his parents, and two younger brothers.
He has a marker in Texas.
The Matt Shubzda Memorial Scholarship is presented to the graduating senior of Naaman Forest High School (Garland, TX) who best exemplifies overall excellence and who has also demonstrated active participation in extracurricular activities as well as strong leadership and academic skills.
From The Hartford Sentinel on October 31, 2012:
Naval aviators take to skies to remember pilots killed a decade ago
USS JOHN C. STENNIS— Aviators from Naval Air Station Lemoore took to the skies over the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis earlier this month to perform a missing man formation in remembrance of naval aviators killed in a mishap a decade ago.
On Oct. 18, 2002, two F/A-18F Super Hornets from the Black Aces of Strike Fighter Squadron VFA-41 collided during a tactics training exercise off the coast of Monterey, killing Lieutenant’s Nick “Freak” Benson, Joel “Korky” Korkowski, Steve “Nacho” Nevarez and Matt “Shooby” Shubzda.
The names of the deceased pilots and their call signs were painted on VFA-41’s aircraft 103 and 105, and were flown on the 10th anniversary of the mishap. The air crews that participated in the memorial flight carried with them four American flags that were then flown into Afghanistan on the first missions the Black Aces flew in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The flags and certificates during the anniversary memorial event will be sent to the families of those killed in the mishap.
“They [VFA-41] honor their memory by being on the pointy end, making their second deployment in two years in support of forces on the ground in Afghanistan,” said Cmdr. Jim Bell, executive officer of NASL. “I couldn’t think of a better way to remember our brothers than the Black Aces carrying on the tradition of Navy lethal strike power.”
“It’s times like these that remind us why we joined this business,” said Bell. “It’s because of the people like Nacho, Korky, Freak and Shooby that the Navy is what it is today.”
Cmdr. Eric Tidwell, executive officer of the Black Aces aboard John C. Stennis, and Cmdr. Colin Day, executive officer of the Warhawks of VFA-97, were both assigned to the Black Aces early in their careers and knew the pilots killed that day. Tidwell and Benson had been roommates aboard the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) during the opening phase of Operation Enduring Freedom in early 2002, and Day went through flight school with Korkowski and was assigned to VFA-41 when tragedy struck.
According to Tidwell, in the aftermath of the mishap, the Navy made several changes in naval aviation, from briefing room protocols to pre-flight and launch procedures; changes that were made to ensure the utmost safety of the flight crews.
“The accident changed the way many people in our community approach the safety measures we have in place for air-to-air training,” said Day. “It became a much more focused and deliberate process.”
The mishap shook the community and left three children without fathers. Nevarez is survived by his wife son, and daughter and Korkowski is survived by his wife and daughter, who was born shortly after the mishap.
“At the time of the mishap, Korkowski’s wife was pregnant,” said Day of his colleague and friend. “I hope now, 10 years later, his daughter can feel great pride in what her father did.”
Not only did the missing man formation serve as a tribute to the pilots, but it raised awareness of the children left behind. A 529 College Savings Plan was set up for each child with the Air Warrior Courage Foundation, which made a starting donation of $1,000 for each child’s account.
The aviation community hopes to bring awareness on the anniversary of the mishap and invite others to support the children of the fallen pilots.
For more information or to make donations to the children’s 529 accounts please visit the foundation website at http://www.airwarriorcourage.org/donations.html.
From researcher Kathy Franz:
In 1992 as a junior at Naaman Forest High School, Matthew was president of Junior Class and treasurer of Student Council.
In addition to his Naval Academy appointment, he also received appointments to attend the Air Force Academy and West Point. He earned a Navy “E” award for bombing accuracy during advanced strike training.
Other survivors were his father James, a sergeant with the Dallas Police Department; mother Patti; brothers Lt. j.g. Tim, a Navy pilot-in-training, and Drew, a senior and football player at Naaman Forest; and his sister Sara, a 2001 graduate of Naaman Forest.
The first six photographs are from his high school yearbook.
Joel Korkowski '94 was piloting the other F/A-18 involved in the collision off the coast of California.