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Pushups pay tribute to three fallen Bragg airmen

The U.S. Air Force's Special Tactics community paid tribute to three fallen Fort Bragg airmen last week.

Members of the 24th Special Operations Wing did memorial pushups in front of the Special Tactics Training Squadron facility at Hurlburt Field, Florida, officials said.

The pushups were meant to honor the memory of Tech. Sgt. Daniel Zerbe, Staff Sgt. Andrew Harvell and Tech. Sgt. John Brown.

The three airmen, members of the 24th Special Tactics Squadron based at Pope Field, were among 30 U.S. troops killed Aug. 6, 2011, when a CH-47 Chinook helicopter known by the call sign Extortion 17 was shot down in Afghanistan.

An investigation into the crash, which killed Navy SEALS, Air Force special operators and members of the Army National Guard, concluded that a Taliban-fired rocket-propelled grenade caused the crash when it struck the CH-47's rear rotor as the helicopter approached its combat landing zone carrying the special operators, flight crew, seven Afghan soldiers and an interpreter.

According to the investigation, the service members who died in the crash were acting as an immediate reaction force for a group of Army Rangers and Afghan soldiers searching a nearby village for Qari Tahir, a senior Taliban leader in Afghanistan's Wardak province.

Originally, 17 Navy SEALs were supposed to land and assist the Rangers, who were facing opposition from a growing number of suspected Taliban fighters, according to the report. The force size was increased based on the growing number of enemy fighters and other factors.

The Chinook crash was the deadliest single incident for the U.S. military during the war in Afghanistan.

Brown, 33, was a native of Tallahassee, Florida, who lived in Pinehurst. Harvell, 26, was from Long Beach, California, and lived in Southern Pines. Zerbe , 28, was a native of York, Pennsylvania, who lived in Sanford.

Brown and Zerbe were both pararescuemen. According to the Air Force Special Operations Command, the primary function of pararescuemen is as personnel recovery specialists with emergency medical capabilities.

Harvell was a combat controller, meaning he coordinated air support with troops on the ground in hostile situations.

brooksd@fayobserver.com

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