Afghanistan helicopter crash victims remembered
Four of the soldiers killed in Sunday’s helicopter crash in Afghanistan were guardsmen from Oregon and Nevada, while the fifth was assigned to an aviation regiment based in Germany, the Pentagon confirmed Tuesday.
The five crewmembers were: Chief Warrant Officer John M. Flynn, Sgt. Patrick D. Stewart, Warrant Officer Adrian B. Stump and Sgt. Tane T. Baum of Pendleton, all of the Army National Guard’s 113th Aviation Regiment; and Sgt. Kenneth G. Ross, of the 7th Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment from Giebelstadt, Germany.
A memorial service has been set for Thursday in Kandahar, officials said.
Ross, 24, grew up in Tucson, Ariz., joining the Army right after he graduated from high school in 1999. He played youth sports in Tucson and marched in the drumline of the Mountain View High School marching band, family members told the Arizona Daily Star newspaper.
Ross joined Company B of the 7-159 Aviation in Giebelstadt, Germany, in February 2003, just as the unit was heading to Iraq for a deployment that would stretch one year. In March, he deployed with the rest of his company to Afghanistan for another one-year tour.
Although he typically worked as an aircraft mechanic, Ross was a door gunner serving on a crew with the four National Guardsmen when the Chinook crashed Sunday near Deh Chopan, about 180 miles southwest of Kabul. The transport helicopter had just dropped off a team of soldiers for a mission in the area, which has been the scene of fierce fighting in recent months.
Capt. Kirsten Gaw, commander of the company’s rear detachment, remembered Ross as “an upstanding soldier” who was well-respected but cracked up friends with his quirky laugh. In Giebelstadt, his unit’s rear detachment will gather in his memory at the base chapel at 2 p.m. Thursday.
Ross is survived by his parents, David and Mary Ross, and his sister, Stephanie, all of Tucson.
Flynn, 36, and Stewart, 35, were both from Fernley, Nev., officials said.
“He believed there was a job to do and he was there to do it,” Flynn’s wife, Christine, told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “We’re really proud of him for what he did. He believed in his job and his fight for the cause. His children will know the kind of man he was.”
Christine Flynn was told her husband was likely piloting the Chinook when it went down.
Stewart’s family, reached by various media outlets, declined to comment about his death. Stewart had served 11 years in the active Army, Army Reserve and the Nevada National Guard, officials said.
“I know all Nevadans join Dema and I in extending our deepest sympathies to the friends and families of Chief Warrant Officer Flynn and Sgt. Stewart,” Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn said in a statement, referring to his wife. “These Nevadans gave their lives in service to our nation and I hope their families can take some solace from the pride we all feel in the honor and integrity with which they served Nevada and our country.”
Stump, 22, and Baum, 30, are the first Oregon Guard soldiers to die in Afghanistan, officials said.
Stump is survived by his parents, Jerry and Anne Stump of Pendleton, the Statesman Journal reported. Baum is survived by his wife, Tina, and two children ages 6 and 3, all from Pendleton, Ore.
U.S. officials in Afghanistan have said there was “no indication” enemy fire played a role in the crash. But in a statement released late Monday, Oregon Gov. Theodore R. Kulongoski said the aircraft went down “when a surface-to-air missile was fired on their CH-47 helicopter during an extraction-and-fill mission, according to initial reports.”
A U.S. military spokesman at Bagram said Tuesday an investigation team from Fort Rucker, Ala., had begun looking into the crash, but there was no information yet to support the governor’s assertion.