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Defense Department identifies U.S. soldiers killed in helicopter crash

5 special ops troops were on training flight in Mediterranean Sea

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A helicopter takes off from a US military base at an undisclosed location in eastern Syria, on Nov. 11, 2019.

A helicopter takes off from a U.S. military base at an undisclosed location in eastern Syria, on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019.

Darko Bandic, Associated Press

The Defense Department identified Monday the five U.S. Army members who died when their helicopter crashed in the Mediterranean Sea last week during a training flight.

Killed were:

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen R. Dwyer, 38, of Clarksville, Tennessee.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Shane M. Barnes, 34, of Sacramento, California.

Staff Sgt. Tanner W. Grone, 26, of Gorham, New Hampshire.

Sgt. Andrew P. Southard, 27, of Apache Junction, Arizona.

Sgt. Cade M. Wolfe, 24, of Mankato, Minnesota.

The MH-60 Blackhawk was conducting aerial refueling training when the aircraft experienced an in-flight emergency resulting in the crash, according to the Defense Department. There are no indications the crash was caused by enemy or hostile actions.

“We mourn the loss of these five incredible soldiers, each of them a national treasure,” Lt. Gen. Jonathan P. Braga said in a statement. “They hail from rare patriotic families with deep military service ties that span multiple generations and formations.”

The soldiers belonged to the elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, known as the Night Stalkers, based in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, officials said. They’re the Army’s best helicopter pilots and usually transport Delta Force or Seal Team Six on missions.

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families of the fallen,” the Defense Department said. “The U.S. Army’s Combat Readiness Center is conducting an investigation into the incident.”

The helicopter went down near Cyprus, one U.S. official said, per ABC News. The crew was part of special operations forces recently sent there to be in place if needed to help evacuate American citizens from the region amid the Israel-Hamas war, according to the official.

The incident is the latest of several military accidents that resulted in fatalities this year, NBC News reported.

In August, a Marine Corps aircraft crashed onto Melville Island in Australia during a training exercise, killing three of the 23 service members it was carrying and leaving the rest injured.

Nine people were also killed when two Army helicopters collided over Kentucky during a training mission in March. Just a month before, three people died in another Army helicopter collision in Alaska.

President Joe Biden said in a statement Sunday that the American service members put lives on the line every day.

“And their daily bravery and selflessness is an enduring testament to what is best in our nation. Jill and I are praying for the families and friends who have lost a precious loved one— a piece of their soul. Our entire nation shares their grief,” he said.

Acknowledging the crash occurred on Veterans Day weekend, Biden said, “We once more affirm the sacred obligation we bear to those who volunteer to serve our nation as well as their families, caregivers and survivors.  We pray for the families of all our fallen warriors today and every day.”