Pilot who died in Afghanistan crash was nearing retirement
DAYTON, Ohio — Before his fourth tour of military duty, James Groves III toured Arlington National Cemetery while in Washington, D.C., last fall to run the Marine Corps Marathon.
The U.S. Army chief warrant officer told his wife, Katie, that was where he wanted to be buried if he died in military service.
The 37-year-old Kettering Fairmont High School graduate was killed Saturday when the helicopter he was piloting crashed near Kandahar, Afghanistan. Mechanical failure is suspected. The other soldier who was aboard survived.
Groves, who enlisted following commencement in June 1994, was nearing the end of his second tour in Afghanistan, following two in Iraq.
“He expected this to be the shortest by far. He left in December and was going to be home by September,” said his mother, Leslie Groves, of Kettering, who “knew immediately what had happened” when a chaplain and a uniformed Army officer came to the door of the family home on Olson Drive last weekend.
“He and Katie were going to celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary. James was very close to his 19th anniversary in the military. He was going to retire after 20 years,” Leslie Groves said.
Katie Groves was at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware Monday afternoon along with the couple’s sons, James IV, 12, and Shane, 9, when her husband’s body was transported from overseas.
A spokesman at Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield near Savannah, where Groves had been stationed, said the incident remains under investigation.
A helicopter crash March 11 in Afghanistan killed five soldiers who were also assigned to the same base. The Army Times reported they were on a routine training mission using night-vision goggles. It was the highest one-day toll for U.S. troops this year in Afghanistan.
Another Dayton area soldier, Ohio National Guard Spec. Cody D. Suggs, 22, of West Alexandria died March 8 in a non-combat incident at Kandahar Airfield.
James, who has an older sister, Jeannette, was born in Columbus on Nov. 7, 1975. The family moved to Kettering in 1978.
He played baseball while growing up in Kettering and football for Fairmont High School. He attended Rosewood Elementary School, now the city’s arts center, for kindergarten and then went to Indian Riffle Elementary School.
At Fairmont, one of his assignments for the student television station was to interview military recruiters.
“He talked to recruiters at all four branches and decided that the Army offered the best deal,” his mother said. “He grew up around it. Both of his grandfathers were in the Army during World War II. His father was in the Army Reserve when we were first married.”
He was stationed in Colorado when he met Katie. “They were both runners and loved going on cruises. Katie took him on a cruise for his birthday last November. He was home for Thanksgiving. He left in December. That was the last time we saw him.”
Groves, who attended officer training school and was an instructor pilot, was assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd infantry Division at Hunter Airfield. His resume included included military intelligence and air assault.
“James didn’t say much about what it was like in Afghanistan. He did talk about Iraq. He said the U.S. presence there was necessary and that we were doing some good. When one of his buddies there died, he accompanied the body home for the
Leslie Groves said the commander of the base in Afghanistan told Katie there was no enemy action in the area at the time of the crash. “They were looking at a mechanical malfunction as the cause. Pilot error was not a consideration.”
The body was flown to Dover following a memorial service at Kandahar. A service at Hunter was also planned.
“He will be buried at Arlington per his request. Katie is seeing to that,” Leslie Groves said.