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Most of the eight servicemembers killed in a Feb. 18 helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan were members of various Army and Air Force special operations units, the Pentagon said Thursday.

While the crash is still under investigation, officials have said the cause was a sudden, unexplained loss of power, not enemy fire. Those identified Thursday were a mix of Army Rangers, members of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and an Air Force pararescue jumper.

Fourteen servicemembers survived the crash of the CH-47 Chinook.

Chief Warrant Officer Hershel D. McCants Jr., 33, was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 160th SOAR out of Fort Campbell, Ky.

According to news reports, McCants is survived by his wife, two children and his father.

“Dan spent the majority of his Army career in Special Forces and Special Operations Aviation doing what he loved. He was a dedicated soldier and particularly loved his flying time with his fellow Night Stalker aviators,” his wife, Shannon, said in a statement released through the military. “Dan would want to be remembered as a soldier who loved his country and served America’s finest.”

Chief Warrant Officer John A. Quinlan, 36, was assigned to the same elite unit. His father, Robert Quinlan of New Jersey, said John was piloting the helicopter and radioed a distress message shortly before the crash.

Quinlan joined the military shortly after graduating high school in 1987. He had served in Iraq and Somalia, and had been a Marine before transferring to the Army to fly helicopters.

His father said Quinlan was planning on a leave to Tennessee next week to celebrate his birthday with his wife and daughters.

Sgt. Adam A. Wilkinson, 23, was from Fort Carson, Colo., and also assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 160th SOAR. He was remembered this week by former teachers as a “great cadet” in the Junior ROTC in high school.

Wilkinson, friends said, graduated from high school a semester early and enlisted in the Army, following in his father’s footsteps. In fact, friends said, both Wilkinson and his father were deployed to Iraq at the same time.

“He understood his calling maybe,” a former teacher was quoted as telling KKTV news. “He was proud of his father, proud of his military heritage; he wanted to continue that.”

Spc. Travis R. Vaughn, 26, of Reinbeck, Iowa, was also assigned to the 2nd of the 160th. He graduated from high school in 1999 and joined the Army about three years ago, Vaughn’s stepmother said. He was married and had a 5-year-old stepson, family said.

“It’s like a bad dream,” Kandi Vaughn, his stepmother, told The Associated Press. “You say a little prayer for the people you see, the pictures you see on TV and you say a little prayer for the family. Now it is us.”

Vaughn was also remembered as an Ultimate Fighting aficionado who had fought in eight professional bouts.

Spc. Brandon D. Gordon, 21, of Naples, Fla., was also assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 160th SOAR. He had just returned to Afghanistan after leave to visit his family.

Friends recalled Gordon as an “adventurous” young man. He joined the Army in 2003 and became a Chinook crewman.

“When he was here, I told him that I’m so proud of him,” Mark Gegenwarth, a former boss and friend, told the Naples Daily News. “There’s so much anti-military talk going around, I wanted him to know someone here cares about him. …”

Gordon is survived by his parents and three brothers.

Pfc. Ryan C. Garbs, 20, of Edwardsville, Ill., was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Ga.

According to the Alton Telegraph, his family was worried about his joining the Army, but said he was fully committed.

“He was just into it. Once he got hold of something, he really focused on it,” his father, Doug Garbs, was quoted as saying. “It was what he wanted to do. It was the adventure of a lifetime. We told him to just be careful, and he said, ‘I’ll be fine, Dad.’ And now this happened, and he didn’t even get to fire his weapon.”

Garbs decided in high school that he wanted to be an Army Ranger, and focused his studies and a workout program on achieving that goal, family members said. Shortly after graduating in 2005, he enlisted.

Pfc. Kristofer D. S. Thomas, 18, of Roseville, Calif., was also assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. According to The Sacramento Bee, Thomas was an outspoken liberal in school and a gung-ho recruit who joined the Army right out of school.

“I don’t want to just sit back and watch the casualty numbers climb on CNN. I need to do something to help out,” he wrote in a school paper.

According to the Bee, family members declined comment but erected a memorial outside their home that included U.S. flags, photos, a stuffed Winnie the Pooh toy and a banner reading “in loving memory of Kristofer.”

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Scott E. Duffman, 32, of Albuquerque, N.M., was assigned to the 24th Special Tactics Squadron, Pope Air Force Base, N.C.

“It’s kind of hard to believe because you’d just talked to him the day before,” his mother, Rose Duffman, told the Fayetteville Observer. “He was a warrior, and he loved what he did.”

Duffman, a veteran of several deployments, had been in Afghanistan this time for only five days, his mother said. He was married with a 5-month-old daughter.

“Scott Duffman was an exceptional pararescueman, friend, husband and father. He loved his profession and loved his family,” Lt. Col. Robert Armfield, the 24th STS commander, said in an Air Force news release. “Losing him is a tragedy, but we are all consoled by the fact that he died strong, doing what he loved — going into harm’s way so others may live.”


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