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Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Hershel D. McCants Jr.

Died February 18, 2007 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom

33, of Ariz.; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), Fort Campbell, Ky.; died Feb. 18 in southeastern Afghanistan when the Chinook helicopter he was in crashed. Also killed were Chief Warrant Officer 3 John A. Quinlan, Sgt. Adam A. Wilkinson, Spc. Travis R. Vaughn, Spc. Brandon D. Gordon, Pfc. Ryan C. Garbs, Pfc. Kristofer D. S. Thomas and Air Force Tech. Sgt. Scott E. Duffman.

Pentagon identifies 8 killed in helo crash

By Sean D. Naylor

Staff writer

Sunday’s crash of a Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan killed eight special operations personnel, seven from the Army and one from the Air Force.

The helicopter was an MH-47E from the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment’s 2nd Battalion, according to a source in the special operations community.

According to a Defense Department release, killed in the crash were:

* Pfc. Ryan C. Garbs, 20, of Edwardsville, Ill.; B Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Ga.

* Spc. Brandon D. Gordon, 21, of Naples, Fla.; B Company, 2nd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), Fort Campbell, Ky.

* Chief Warrant Officer 3 Hershel D. McCants, Jr., 34, of Arizona; B Co., 2nd Battalion, 160th.

* CW3 John A. Quinlan, 26, of New Jersey; B Co., 2nd Battalion, 160th.

* Pfc. Kristofer D. Thomas, 18, of Roseville, Calif.; B Co., 3rd Battalion., 75th Ranger Regiment.

* Spc. Travis R. Vaughn, 26, of Reinbeck, Iowa; B Co., 2nd Battalion, 160th.

* Sgt. Adam A. Wilkinson, 23, of Miskayuna, N.Y.; B Co., 2nd Battalion, 160th.

* Air Force Tech Sgt. Scott Duffman, of La Cueva, N.M., was assigned to the 24th Special Tactics Squadron, Pope Air Force Base, N.C.

According to a press release posted on the Army Special Operations command web site Tuesday night, 160th Commander Col. Kevin W. Mangum said, “The aircraft was crewed by an exceptionally qualified team of professionals and was flying in a formation of other aircraft in performance of this mission. It is unclear at this time as to exactly what caused the aircraft to crash onto a high plain in southeastern Afghanistan.

“While it is important that we investigate and determine what caused this tragic event — which we will — our immediate and lasting concern is for the families and friends of the extraordinary men who served their country with distinction,” Mangum said.

Fourteen others were wounded in the crash when the helicopter reportedly had a sudden, unexplained loss of power and control before crashing in southeastern Afghanistan.

A combat search and rescue operation was launched immediately to secure the site and recover the passengers, the release said, adding that wounded personnel were transported to coalition medical facilities for treatment.

The 160th, the Rangers and the 24th STS all support Joint Special Operations Command, which is headquartered at Pope Air Force Base, N.C., and is in charge of the most sensitive special operations missions. The 160th is headquartered at Fort Campbell, Ky., and the 24th STS is headquartered at Pope.

The helicopter was carrying 22 personnel, and while some of the survivors “did walk away,” several others are very seriously injured, the source said.

The helicopter was flying from Kandahar to Bagram at about 300 feet above the ground when it experienced a sudden loss of power, the source said. Initial speculation about the cause of the loss of power has centered on the possibility of engine icing, he said. But whatever caused the loss of power, “at 300 feet you don’t have a lot of space to recover,” the source added.

The helicopter appears to have come down aft end first, then bounced on its nose, causing the transmission assembly to come down on the cockpit, crushing the personnel at the front of the helicopter, according to the source.

The Chinook crashed in Zabol province about 50 yards away from the main Kabul to Kandahar highway, according to press reports.

The helicopter is at least the fifth MH-47 that has crashed or been shot down worldwide since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The 160th is the only unit that flies the MH-47.

The 160th will hold a memorial ceremony for those killed on Wednesday.

Walter Sokalski, spokesman for USASOC, had no comment when reached by phone Tuesday.

A U.S. military statement said details of the crash or the helicopter’s mission would not be released until “completion of recovery operations.”

Thousands of U.S. forces are deployed in southeastern Afghanistan, including in Zabul, where they have a base under NATO command.

The province has long been a hotbed for militant supporters of the former Taliban regime who have stepped up attacks over the past year.

In May 2006, another U.S. CH-47 Chinook crashed attempting a nighttime landing on a small mountaintop in eastern Kunar province, killing 10 soldiers.

In 2005, a helicopter crashed in Kunar, after apparently being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, killing 16 American troops.

Another crash of a civilian helicopter last year in southeastern Khost province killed up to 16 people, including the wife and two daughters of a U.S. civilian worker.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

5 Fort Campbell, Ky., soldiers among 8 killed in recent Afghan helicopter crash

The Associated Press

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. — Five soldiers from Fort Campbell were among eight killed in a helicopter crash over the weekend in Afghanistan, the Defense Department said Feb. 20.

The military said the CH-47 Chinook was carrying 22 U.S. service members when it crashed Feb. 18 in the Shahjoi district of Zabul province. Fourteen people on board survived.

The Fort Campbell soldiers were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), the Pentagon said.

The crash remained under investigation, though military officials have said the twin-rotor helicopter was not shot down. It was the deadliest incident in Afghanistan this year.

The Fort Campbell soldiers have been identified as Chief Warrant Officer John A. Quinlan, 36, the pilot, of New Jersey; Chief Warrant Officer Hershel D. McCants Jr., 33, of Arizona; Sgt. Adam A. Wilkinson, 23, of Fort Carson, Colo.; Spc. Travis R. Vaughn, 26, of Reinbeck, Iowa; and Spc. Brandon D. Gordon, 21, of Naples, Fla.

Also killed were Pfcs. Ryan C. Garbs, 20, of Edwardsville, Ill., and Kristofer D.S. Thomas, 18, of Roseville, Calif., the Defense Department said. They were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Ga.

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

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