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In Memoriam: Pentagon Identifies Fallen Heroes in Mediterranean Military Helicopter Tragedy 2024-04-17 06:04:58

In a somber announcement on Monday, the Pentagon revealed the identities of the five U.S. service members who tragically lost their lives in a military helicopter crash during a training operation in the eastern Mediterranean on Friday night. These fallen heroes are Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen R. Dwyer of Clarksville, Tennessee (38 years old); Chief Warrant Officer 2 Shane M. Barnes of Sacramento, California (34); Staff Sgt. Tanner W. Grone of Gorham, New Hampshire (26); Sgt. Andrew P. Southard of Apache Junction, Arizona (27); and Sgt. Cade M. Wolfe of Mankato, Minnesota (24). All five were dedicated special operations aviation soldiers.

The Department of Defense disclosed that the fatal crash occurred during routine flight training when the MH-60 Blackhawk, assigned to the first battalion in the 160th special operations aviation regiment, experienced an in-flight emergency. The gravity of the loss reverberated through the Special Operations community, with Lt. Gen. Jonathan Braga, commander of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, expressing the deep sorrow felt across the nation.

The soldiers, deployed to Cyprus, were prepared for potential evacuations in Lebanon or Israel, according to a U.S. official. The U.S. European Command (USEUCOM), responsible for military operations across Europe, portions of Asia and the Middle East, the Arctic, and the Atlantic Ocean, confirmed the incident was solely linked to training, ruling out indications of hostile activity.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin conveyed his condolences, acknowledging the tragic loss and emphasizing that the crash underscores the daily sacrifices made by the men and women who defend the nation. As the Pentagon investigates the nature of the crash, the incident stands as a poignant reminder of the risks borne by those dedicated to preserving the safety and security of the United States.

In commemorating the fallen soldiers, their legacy is hailed as a representation of the best of America, with a commitment to remembering their service and sacrifice. Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen R. Dwyer, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Shane M. Barnes, Staff Sgt. Tanner W. Grone, Sgt. Andrew P. Southard, and Sgt. Cade M. Wolfe, each with a distinguished history of service in various roles within the Army, have been recognized for their exemplary dedication. The Defense Department acknowledges their valor with awards, emphasizing their embodiment of the Night Stalker and Soldier ideals.

Col. Roger P. Waleski Jr., commander of the soldiers' aviation regiment, pays tribute to these teammates, citing their unparalleled dedication to the 160th SOAR. "Night Stalker," a moniker denoting proficiency in nighttime operations, encapsulates the skill and commitment demonstrated by these soldiers. In the face of this tragedy, the priority is extending complete support to the families of the fallen warriors.

As the nation mourns this loss, the Defense Department's response includes the deployment of additional U.S. forces to the Middle East. In the aftermath of the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants on Israel, the USS Gerald R. Ford and its strike group were dispatched to the eastern Mediterranean. Simultaneously, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and its strike group were sent to the Persian Gulf amid escalating attacks on U.S. military bases in Iraq and Syria by Iran-backed Shia militia groups. Defense Secretary Austin also bolstered the region's defenses with the deployment of additional air defense systems.

Reporting on this tragic incident is contributed by David Martin, and Faris Tanyos serves as a news editor for CBSNews.com, bringing a comprehensive perspective to the unfolding events.

In the wake of this solemn chapter, the words echo with a poignant resonance: "They represent the best of America. We will remember their service and their sacrifice." Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen R. Dwyer, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Shane M. Barnes, Staff Sgt. Tanner W. Grone, Sgt. Andrew P. Southard, and Sgt. Cade M. Wolfe, distinguished soldiers with a collective history of dedicated service, are memorialized not only for their awards but as embodiments of the Night Stalker and Soldier ideals.

Colonel Roger P. Waleski Jr., commander of their aviation regiment, pays homage to these fallen teammates, emphasizing their unparalleled commitment to the 160th SOAR and their profound impact as Night Stalkers. As the nation grapples with this profound loss, the paramount focus is extending unwavering support to the grieving families left behind.

In the broader context, the Defense Department's swift response to the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants includes the deployment of additional U.S. forces to the Middle East. The USS Gerald R. Ford and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, along with enhanced air defense systems, symbolize the nation's commitment to securing the region in the face of escalating tensions.

As this poignant narrative unfolds, we acknowledge the valuable contributions of David Martin and Faris Tanyos in providing comprehensive reporting and editorial insights. In this collective mourning, the enduring memory of these brave soldiers serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made by those who defend the principles and freedoms of our great nation.

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