The Pentagon has identified the five Army special operations aviation soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in the Mediterranean Sea on Friday.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen Dwyer, 38, of Clarksville, Tenn.; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Shane Barnes, 34, of Sacramento, Calif.; Staff Sgt. Tanner Grone, 26, of Gorham, N.H.; Sgt. Andrew Southard, 27, of Apache Junction, Ariz.; and Sgt. Cade Wolfe, 24, of Mankato, Minn., were killed when their MH-60 Blackhawk “experienced an in-flight emergency” and crashed while conducting aerial refueling training, according to a Defense Department statement released Monday.
All were members of the Army’s elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, known as the Night Stalkers. The team provides helicopter aviation support for special operations forces, flying commandos on secretive missions.
“This is devastating news that reverberates across the entire Special Operations community,” said Lt. Gen. Jonathan Braga, head of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, in the release. “Our thoughts and prayers are with their families, their loved ones, and their fellow soldiers.”
President Biden, noting the crash took place ahead of Veterans Day weekend, said: “Our service members put their lives on the line for our country every day. They willingly take risks to keep the American people safe and secure."
U.S. European Command first revealed the five deaths in a Sunday statement but offered limited information about the crash, the aircraft, its crew or the service it belonged to, a sign of the clandestine nature of the unit and its mission.
The New York Times reported the helicopter crashed off the coast of Cyprus, where the Pentagon has sent commando teams from the Joint Special Operations Command, including the Army’s Delta Force and the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, in case they are called on to help evacuate U.S. citizens from the region.
Since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants on Israel, the Pentagon has moved additional U.S. forces to the Middle East, including the Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier strike group. The ship is now in the eastern Mediterranean off the coast of Israel, meant as a deterrent to Iran and the militant groups it backs from widening the conflict, according to Biden administration officials.
“These teammates demonstrated the highest level of dedication to the 160th SOAR and their exemplary service in the Army is the embodiment of what it means to be a Night Stalker and a Soldier,” 160th Cmdr. Col. Roger Waleski Jr. said in a statement. “Our priority now is to ensure the families of our fallen warriors receive our complete support as we work through this tragedy together."