159th aviators who died in Grafenwöhr copter crash memorialized
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Family, friends and comrades from 2nd Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment bid farewell to two aviators killed when their Apache Longbow helicopter crashed during a routine training mission this week.
Chief Warrant Officer Timothy R. Breneman, 36, and Chief Warrant Officer Terry M. Thomas, 31, died Tuesday after the Apache went down in a heavily wooded part of Grafenwöhr Training Area. The cause of the accident is under investigation, according to a 1st Armored Division statement.
Before a farewell ceremony on Friday, the dead aviators’ flight helmets, dog tags, rifles, boots and cavalry spurs stood at the front of the Camp Aachen theater while Thomas’ children, Ty, 7, and Tarrisa, 9, played on an assault course outside.
Battalion commander Lt. Col. Kevin Christensen told those gathered in the theater that he met Breneman shortly after the experienced instructor pilot from Florida joined the unit, then designated 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, in August last year.
“I took him out on his local flight orientation. I was immediately impressed with his skill and professional demeanor,” Christensen recalled.
Thomas, a Baton Rouge, La., native who became a warrant officer in 2004 after several years as a supply soldier and noncommissioned officer, qualified to fly Apaches in March. When he joined Company C that month it was his first assignment as a pilot, according to biographical information handed out at the ceremony.
“Terry was a rising star in the battalion,” Christensen said. “I will always remember meeting him on the day I took command. When we shook hands he almost broke my hand with his firm grip,” he said.
Company C commander Capt. Paul Mitchell said Thomas was undergoing his first Apache gunnery training at Grafenwöhr.
“Terry was extremely excited about flying his first gunnery, especially since he was flying with Tim. It wasn’t uncommon to see the two of them sitting in front of a computer watching old gunnery tapes and talking about techniques, tactics and procedures,” he said.
Breneman was Company C’s teacher, Mitchell said.
“I would often go to him and ask how to make the most out of each aviator in the company. When Tim talked, people listened,” he said.
Last week, Breneman approached Mitchell and told him men in the unit had issues with his being hot under the collar,” he said.
“Then I see a smile on his face. … I was standing in front of him with a handful of ice down my back,” he said.
Chief Warrant Officer Al Goll Myer said Breneman trained 6-6’s Company B last summer after a mass exodus of experienced soldiers, then did the same thing for Company C, which become the battalion’s premier unit.
“Terry had the same impact on Company C as Tim. He had become the company’s go-to guy. He was Tim’s protégé. He had all the indications of a future great pilot,” he said.
Chief Warrant Officer Ryan Collier recalled Breneman’s love of traveling with his wife.
“When he was with Theresa he was in love and enjoying life,” he said.
Other soldiers spoke of Thomas’ love for his children and his wife, Denisa, and his habit of working out in the gym for hours after a hard day at the range.