Army identifies six soldiers killed in Afghanistan helicopter crash

Two U.S. UH-60 Black Hawks and a U.S. CH-47 Chinook prepare to land Nov. 24, 2013, on Camp Commando near Kabul, Afghanistan.

KABUL — Five of the soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday were with the 1st Infantry Division based at Fort Riley, Kan., and the sixth was with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment based in Vilseck, Germany, the Defense Department announced.

The six were killed when their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter went down in Naw Bahar district in Zabul province. Officials haven’t announced the cause of the crash, but say they don’t believe it was caused by enemy fire. There was one survivor, who hasn’t been named.

A DOD news release identified those killed as: Chief Warrant Officer 2 Randy L. Billings, 34, of Heavener, Okla.; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua B. Silverman, 35, of Scottsdale, Ariz.; Sgt. Peter C. Bohler, 29, of Willow Spring, N.C.; Sgt. 1st Class Omar W. Forde, 28, of Marietta, Ga.; Staff Sgt. Jesse L. Williams, 30, of Elkhart, Ind.; and Spc. Terry K. D. Gordon, 22, of Shubuta, Miss.

Billings, Silverman and Bohler all were assigned to the 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. Forde was assigned to the brigade’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, and Gordon was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment.

The Wichita Eagle quoted Maj. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, commander of 1st ID and Fort Riley, saying, “We offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of these Big Red One soldiers … We stand ready to support them, and I urge our community and nation, while remembering their sacrifices this holiday season, to do the same.”

The crash, which is still under investigation, made Dec. 17 the deadliest day for NATO troops in six months, since a suicide attack on a base killed seven Georgian soldiers.

Williams was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, Regimental Support Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, based in Vilseck, Germany. He had just been promoted to staff sergeant Dec. 1, according to U.S. Army Europe. He was on his third deployment and had joined the military to work on computers, his mother, Debbie Bussard Passerallo, told The Elkhart Truth.

“He didn’t let things get him down,” Passerallo told the paper. “When he was a friend, he was a friend forever.”

What he loved most was spending time with his 6-year-old daughter, Madison, her mother, Amanda Caldwell, told the paper. But he also loved the military, she said, according to the Truth. “He didn’t want to do anything else.”

Billings had been in the military for 16 years, having joined right after high school, according to local media. An only son, Billings loved serving, KJRH-TV in Tulsa quoted his uncle, Hurschel Billings, as saying. “Every time he came back, he couldn’t wait to go back,” the uncle was quoted as saying.

Silverman spent much of his youth in St. Louis, according to the St. Louis Jewish Light. His boyhood friend, Matthew Litwack, told the Light that Silverman “did his own thing and people gravitated around him.” He was well-liked, and caring, Litwack said.

Silverman’s Facebook posts while deployed to Afghanistan always contained humor, the Light quoted Litwack as saying.

“That was Josh,” Litwack told the Light. “He always could see the positive in the negative.”

Bohler was the eldest of three siblings and came from a family with a history of military service, the News & Observer reported. The paper said Bohler’s father, Peter, was also in the Army; his great-grandfather served in Europe in World War I; his grandfather was in the Army during World War II; and a great-uncle was in the Air Force during the Korean War.

At 22, Gordon was the youngest of those killed. He was a member of the Junior ROTC throughout high school, according to the Meridian Star, which quoted Quitman High School Principal Michael McDonald. “Terry always wanted to go into the Army,” McDonald told the Meridian Star. 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recalled that Forde was a varsity football player in high school before joining the Army eight years ago. He left behind a wife and two sons, ages 5 and 17 months, the paper reported.

His high school coach, Scott Jones, told the AJC that Forde was his pride and joy in 28 years of coaching and teaching.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all that he was serving his country because he was selfless and very committed to what he did,” Jones told the AJC.

Stars and Stripes reporter Michael Darnell contributed to this report.


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