Brad Paakola was born on July 14, 1968, in Waukegan, Illinois. He entered the Air Force on February 19, 1991, and was commissioned a 2d Lt through Officer Training School at Lackland AFB, Texas, in June 1991. Lt Paakola next attended Undergraduate Pilot Training with the 54th Flying Training Squadron at Reese AFB, Texas, receiving his pilot wings in June 1992. His first assignment was as an E-3 Sentry pilot with the 963rd Airborne Warning and Control Squadron at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, from June 1992 to January 1994, followed by service as an E-3 pilot with the 962nd Airborne Air Control Squadron at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, from January 1994 until he was killed in the crash of an E-3B Sentry (Call Sign "Yukla 27") shortly after takeoff from Elmendorf AFB on September 22, 1995. Bradley Paakola was buried at Mount Olivet Memorial Park in Zion, Illinois.
His Meritorious Service Medal Citation reads:
Members of Flight Yukla 27 distinguished themselves in the performance of outstanding service to the United States and Canada while serving as E-3 Airborne Warning and Air Control Systems air crew members assigned to 3rd Wing, 962nd Airborne Air Control Squadron and the 381st Air Intelligence Squadron, Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. They consistantly demonstrated outstanding airmanship while providing long range airborne surveillance, detection, identification, and command and control during deployed operations and in the Alaska region. All were dedicated volunteers selflessly serving, and fully committed to the defense of their nations and the Alaska region. Our memory of these airmen will forever be of professionals who stepped to the front and answered the call to duty and made the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of peace and freedom. The distinctive accomplishments of each of these individuals reflect credit upon themselves, the United States Air Force, and Canadian Forces.