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AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — Will Tracy and J.D. Smith were remembered as both men and soldiers Friday by colleagues and friends.

Tracy, a 27-year-old specialist, and Smith, a 32-year-old chief warrant officer 2, were killed Monday when the Black Hawk helicopter they were training on in Kuwait crashed. Also killed were Chief Warrant Officer 2 Timothy Moehling and Spc. Rodrigo Gonzalez-Garza, both assigned to Giebelstadt, Germany.

Tracy and Smith were in the desert ahead of most of their Army unit at Aviano, which has received orders to deploy alongside their Germany-based comrades.

“We’ve lost two great soldiers who volunteered to deploy before us,” said Anthony Polelli, the first sergeant for Company B, 5th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, a few minutes after exiting from a filled-to-capacity base chapel.

Both soldiers were praised by the base chaplains from Aviano and Vicenza and colleagues from their unit.

“J.D.’s death, and Will’s death, are incredible losses not only to their family and friends, but to this base,” said Aviano Chaplain (Capt.) Mark Roberts. “And to the U.S. military.”

Sgt. Christopher Givens remembered Tracy as a dedicated soldier who “would have tasks done, even before he was asked to do them.”

He said Tracy, who was in the Marines before joining the Army, would be remembered as a fun-loving soldier who liked to be deployed.

“Most felt comfortable around him from the first time they met him,” Givens said.

Capt. Jordan Mastroianni said Smith was many things to different people. He praised his abilities as a soldier — “any weapon he picked up, he was guaranteed to shoot expert” — but spent more time on his life away from the military.

Mastroianni said Smith was a loving husband to Meredith, a homework tutor to his 8-year-old daughter, Kiara, and a bike instructor for 4-year-old daughter Madeline.

Smith, a former missionary for the Latter-day Saints in Italy, had many Italian friends. One of them was Paolo Tarchi, a longtime base employee. Tarchi said he took Smith on his first mountain-climbing trip in ranges north of Aviano.

Dozens of Italians attended the service along with the base’s small Army contingent and a large number of Air Force personnel.

Army Maj. Gen. Thomas R. Turner, commander of the Southern European Task Force (Airborne) came from Vicenza.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.

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