Army IDs 4 soldiers killed in Leadville helicopter crash | VailDaily.com
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Army IDs 4 soldiers killed in Leadville helicopter crash

KRISTIN M. HALL
Associated Press Writer

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – The Army on Friday identified four members of an elite special operations unit killed in a helicopter training accident in Colorado.

Those killed in Wednesday’s crash were Chief Warrant Officers 4 Terrance Geer, 40, of Casper, Wyo.; and Robert Johnson, 41, of Seattle; and Staff Sgts. Paul Jackson, 33, of Lancaster, Md., and Chad Tucker, 28, of Titusville, Fla.

Geer’s wife, Gina, said in a statement released by the Army that the family appreciates the outpouring of support from the community.

“While we sincerely appreciate the nation’s interest in Terrance’s life and his contributions to our great nation, we ask that the media respect our privacy and allow us time to grieve,” she said.

The soldiers were members of the Fort Campbell-based Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, created more than 20 years ago after a failed mission to rescue hostages in Iran.

Army Special Operations Command officials said their MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed while conducting mountain and environmental training near Colorado’s second-highest summit, Mount Massive.

Each of the highly decorated soldiers had extensive combat experience and had completed the Army’s most rigorous schools and training programs.

Their elite aviation unit is home to some of the Army’s best helicopter pilots, who focus on getting Special Forces soldiers, Army Rangers and Navy SEALS into some of the most dangerous areas of the world for covert operations.

Using the cover of nightfall and keeping low to the ground to avoid radar detection, the pilots often navigate through enemy territory and bad weather to safely deliver and retrieve soldiers.

Army special forces leaders recognized the need for a highly trained aviation unit after an operation failed to rescue hostages in Iran in 1980 and resulted in two helicopter crashes and eight deaths.

The new team was first called Task Force 160, and it began training its pilots to operate in low-light situations, including using night-vision equipment and infrared devices, according to GlobalSecurity.org, a defense analysis Web site. The soldiers’ special capabilities earned them the name Night Stalkers.

In 1993, during fighting in Somalia, two helicopters piloted by Night Stalkers were shot down in Mogadishu. The subsequent rescue was made famous by the book and movie “Black Hawk Down.”

The unit has had a large role in Iraq and Afghanistan and has suffered several casualties.

In 2005, eight members of the unit were killed along with eight Navy SEALs after their MH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade, making it the single deadliest attack on U.S. forces in the country at that time.

More recently, five Night Stalkers were among eight service members killed in February 2007 when a Chinook crashed in southern Afghanistan.

Currently the regiment has four battalions, two based at Fort Campbell, one at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., and one at Fort Lewis, Wash. They use a variety of helicopters including Black Hawks, Chinooks and AH-6 Little Birds.

Tim Cash, president of the Night Stalkers Association, a nonprofit group that provides scholarships and other support for the unit’s soldiers and their families, described its members as “quiet professionals” who wanted their privacy to mourn the fallen soldiers.

Maj. Brandon A. Bissell, a spokesman for the unit at Fort Campbell, said a memorial for the fallen soldiers is planned, but wouldn’t discuss further details.

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On the Net:

http://www.soc.mil/160soar/soar(underscore)home.htm

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Terrance W. Geer, 40:

– Geer was a native of Casper, Wyo., and entered the Navy in February 1989. After serving five years in the U.S. Navy, Geer was accepted into the Army Warrant Officer Program at Fort Rucker, Ala., in 1994. Upon graduation from the UH-1 Course in 1995, Geer was assigned to the 82nd Air Ambulance Medical Company at Fort Riley, Kan., as an Aero Medical Evacuation Pilot and Instructor Pilot. In 1998, after completing the Instrument Flight Examiner Course, Geer was assigned to the Combat Maneuver Training Center at Hohenfels, Germany, as a Standardization Instructor Pilot. After a successful assessment in 2002, Geer was assigned to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment as an Instructor Pilot and Aviation Safety Officer.

– He was a combat veteran with 12 deployments, 11 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and one in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

– His awards included the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, three Air Medals for valor, seven Air Medals, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, two Army Commendation Medals, the Army Achievement Medal, the Navy Achievement Medal, the Valorous Unit Award, the Navy Good Conduct Medal, two National Defense Service Medals, three Southwest Asia Service Medals, Afghanistan Campaign Medal-Campaign Star, Iraqi Campaign Medal-Campaign Star, Global War On Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Kuwaiti Liberation Medal (Government of Saudi Arabia), Kuwaiti Liberation Medal (Government of Kuwait), Navy Aircrew Insignia Badge, and Senior Aviator Badge.

– Geer is survived by his wife, Gina Geer, and his son and daughter, Braden and Emma of Clarksville, Tenn.; and his mother, Barbara Geer, of Toledo, Ohio.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Robert M. Johnson, 41:

– Johnson was a native of Seattle and entered the Army in April 1990. After serving a year in the U.S. Army, Johnson was accepted into the Army Warrant Officer Program at Fort Rucker, Ala., in 1990. Upon graduation from the UH-60 Blackhawk Course, Johnson was assigned to 9th Battalion, 101st Airborne Division as an Instructor Pilot. In 1996, Johnson was assigned to 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment at Seoul, Korea. In 1997, he was assigned to 5th Battalion, 101st Airborne Division. After a successful assessment in 2001, Johnson was assigned to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment as an Instructor Pilot and Instrument Flight Examiner.

– Johnson earned his Bachelor’s of Science in Aeronautical Management from Embry-Riddle University in 2009.

– He was a combat veteran with 20 deployments, 18 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, one in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and one in support of operations in Somalia.

– His awards included the Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal for valor, 13 Air Medals, five Army Commendation Medals, six Army Achievement Medals, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, two Valorous Unit Awards, Army Good Conduct Medal, two National Defense Service Medals, Afghanistan Campaign Medal-Campaign Star, Iraqi Campaign Medal-three Campaign Stars, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Global War On Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War On Terrorism Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, the United Nations Medal, the Air Assault Badge, and Master Aviator Badge.

– He is survived by his wife, Sandra Johnson, and his daughter and son, Morgan and Hatch of Clarksville, Tenn.; and his mother and father, Wells and Connie McGrath, of Enumclaw, Wash.

Staff Sgt. Chad A. Tucker, 28:

– Tucker was a native of Titusville, Fla., and entered the Army in June 2000. Following basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Eustis, Va., Tucker served with 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment at Coleman Barracks, Germany, as both a helicopter mechanic and crew chief. In 2003, he successfully assessed with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment as a helicopter mechanic. Tucker arrived to 1st Battalion, 160th SOAR, at Fort Campbell, Ky., in January 2004.

– He was a combat veteran with 14 deployments, all in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

– His awards included the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal for Valor, eight Air Medals, two Army Commendation Medals, three Army Good Conduct Medals, National Defense Service Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal-Campaign Star, Global War On Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War On Terrorism Service Medal, NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, the Combat Action Badge, and the Basic Aviation Badge.

– He is survived by his wife, Megan Tucker, and his son, Jeremy, of Fort Campbell, Ky.; and his father and mother, Wendell and Wanda Tucker, of Titusville, Fla.; and his sister, Crystal Castaner, of Titusville, Fla.

Staff Sgt. Paul R. Jackson, 33:

– Jackson was a native of Lancaster, Md., and volunteered for Army service in May 1998. Following basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., Jackson successfully assessed with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment as a helicopter aircrew member. Tucker arrived to his first duty station with 1st Battalion, 160th SOAR, at Fort Campbell, Ky., in March 1999. In 2007, Jackson served with 3rd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, at Camp Humphreys, Korea, as an aircrew member. In 2008, Jackson returned to the 160th SOAR, serving with 1st Battalion, 160th SOAR as an Aviation Standardization Non-Commissioned Officer.

– He was a combat veteran with 10 deployments, nine in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and one in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

– His awards included the Air Medal for valor, three Air Medals, two Army Commendation Medals, Army Achievement Medal, Presidential Unit Citation Award, Valorous Unit Award, two Army Good Conduct Medals, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal-Campaign Star, Iraqi Campaign Medal-Campaign Star, Global War On Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War On Terrorism Service Medal, NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, the Combat Action Badge, the Senior Aircrew Member Badge, and the Basic Aviation Badge.

– He is survived by his daughter, Desiree, and his mother, Brenda Jackson, of Philadelphia.


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