Copter crash victims represented a cross-section of the U.S. Army
January 26, 2007
The dozen servicemembers killed in Saturday’s Black Hawk crash — and identified late Wednesday by the Pentagon — came from across the ranks of the Army, both active and reserve. They were high-ranking officers, senior enlisted leaders and well-regarded junior soldiers, with a diverse set of jobs and responsibilities.
All were killed when their helicopter went down near Baghdad. Military officials said an insurgent using a shoulder-fired missile might have shot it down.
Among the casualties was the first woman to become a command sergeant major in the Iowa Army National Guard. Command Sgt. Maj. Marilyn L. Gabbard, 46, of Polk City, Iowa, was assigned to Joint Forces Headquarters, Iowa Army National Guard at Camp Dodge.
Some 80 soldiers gathered at an emotional news conference at Camp Dodge where Gabbard’s death was announced.
“In her particular case it was not so much a case of rank but who she was,” Lt. Col. Gregory Hapgood, a Guard spokesman, said. “If you look around the room she has touched so many people in this organization.”
Gabbard had arrived in Iraq on Dec. 26 and is survived by her husband (a retired Iowa National Guard soldier), a daughter, a stepson and five stepdaughters.
Command Sgt. Maj. Roger W. Haller, 49, of Davidsonville, Md., was assigned to the 70th Regiment, Regional Training Institute-Maryland, Maryland Army National Guard in Reisterstown.
“He was the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back. He would take a bullet for anybody — he would step in line — that’s the kind of guy he was,” Haller’s friend, retired Command Sgt. Maj. Kathleen Hurley, told the Capital News Service.
Haller was serving an active-duty tour in Iraq, helping soldiers and families with personnel issues. He had been in Afghanistan in early December and was apparently doing work in Iraq when he died. Family members were shocked to hear both the circumstances and location of his death.
Haller worked in construction and as a plumber in civilian life, and was known for his passion for motorcycles. Haller’s son, Sgt. Daniel Haller, has served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, family members said.
Staff Sgt. Darryl D. Booker, 37, of Midlothian, Va., was assigned to the 29th Infantry Division, Virginia Army National Guard in Sandston.
Booker worked full time at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Sandston, had served in Bosnia -Herzegovina in 2001, and was on his second tour in Iraq. He was active in his church, family members said, and is survived by his parents, wife, a 16-year-old daughter and four stepchildren, family members said.
Sgt. 1st Class John G. Brown, 43, of Little Rock, Ark., was assigned to the Arkansas Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 185th Aviation Regiment (Air Assault), 77th Aviation Brigade at Camp Robinson.
Known as Gary, Brown had served in Desert Storm and arrived in Iraq last summer, family members said. The crash occurred on Brown’s first day back on duty after taking leave to visit family in Arkansas, his brother told local news outlets.
Lt. Col. David C. Canegata, 50, of St. Croix, and Sgt. 1st Class Floyd E. Lake, 43, of St. Thomas, were both with the Virgin Islands Army National Guard. Little biographical information was available about them on Thursday.
Cpl. Victor M. Langarica, 29, of Decatur, Ga., was assigned to the 86th Signal Battalion out of Fort Huachuca, Ariz.
He was remembered as a smiling, joking, master of salsa dancing and a single father of two young children.
Langarica had volunteered to go to Iraq, family members said, and planned to leave the Army once his tour was up. Fellow soldiers said Langarica always had a positive attitude and that his enthusiasm carried through from his work to his personal life.
Capt. Sean E. Lyerly, 31, of Pflugerville, Texas, was assigned to the Texas Army National Guard’s 36th Combat Aviation Brigade, 36th Infantry Division. He was piloting the Black Hawk when it went down, Texas National Guard officials said.
Lyerly entered the Guard as a private in 1996, friends said, and deployed to Iraq in August after being called to active duty. He is survived by his parents, his wife and their 3-year-old son.
In a Guard statement, Lyerly’s wife said, “He exceeded even my dreams. He was loving, compassionate and full of integrity — a beautiful man inside and out.”
Maj. Michael V. Taylor, 40, of North Little Rock, Ark., was assigned to the Arkansas Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 185th Aviation Regiment (Air Assault), 77th Aviation Brigade at Camp Robinson.
Taylor was due for family leave in February, friends said, and was a veteran of Desert Storm. In civilian life, he worked with computers, and leaves behind a wife and two children, ages 11 and 5.
First Sgt. William T. Warren, 48, was also of North Little Rock and also assigned to the Arkansas Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion out of Camp Robinson.
Warren’s wife told local media that her husband was a strong, quiet presence. He had been in Iraq since early September.
Col. Paul M. Kelly, 45, of Stafford, Va., was assigned to the Joint Force Headquarters of the Virginia Army National Guard in Blackstone. He was to leave Iraq in March and served as chief of the aviation and safety division at the National Guard Bureau.
Family members said he was a helicopter pilot and commanded a National Guard liaison team in Baghdad. He leaves behind a wife and two sons. He was nicknamed “the Senator” because of his gregarious nature and his penchant for shaking soldiers’ hands, no matter their rank, local news outlets reported.
Some 200 members of the Virginia Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment held a service at Al Asad to honor Kelly and the other casualties.
Col. Brian D. Allgood, 46, of Oklahoma, was assigned to the 30th Medical Brigade, European Regional Medical Command, Heidelberg, Germany. He was the command surgeon for Multi-National Force-Iraq and had been serving in Iraq for six months, overseeing medical practices and policies for the force and advising the MNF-I commander.