Pentagon Identifies Special Operations Soldiers Killed In Blackhawk Crash Over The Mediterranean

The five soldiers who perished in Friday’s helicopter accident over the Mediterranean Sea were members of U.S. Special Operations Command (USASOC), the Pentagon revealed on Monday.

U.S. Army identified the five fallen soldiers as 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; and Sgt. Cade M. Wolfe, 24, of Mankato, Minnesota, USASOC said in a statement. They were assigned to 1st Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) (160th SOAR).

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

The five service members were killed after a routine in-flight refueling exercise went awry, according to the Army. The MH-60 Blackhawk they were piloting on a training mission experienced an unspecified emergency resulting in the crash.

Troops were in the area as part of the Biden administration’s broader contingency planning in case the war between Israel and Hamas escalated, The Washington Post reported, citing two U.S. officials. That planning includes potential evacuations of U.S. citizens from Israel and Lebanon.

Officials said the Blackhawk crashed off the coast of Cyprus, according to the Post.

U.S. European Command first revealed the accident on Saturday, but did not specify the names of the soldiers or the unit to which they were assigned.

While assigned to the 160th SOAR as a MH-60M pilot, Dwyer deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and supported a number of no-notice deployments and exercises across the globe, according to a brief biography provided by USASOC.

Barnes served as a platoon leader and operations officer before transitioning to become a warrant officer in 2020 to train pilots, deployed to Afghanistan, deployed to Iraq multiple times and completed several no-notice assignments.

Grone was a flight instructor and MH-60M crew chief also with deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations on national security missions.

Southard enlisted as an UH-60 “Black Hawk” repairer and had just made MH-60M crew chief in 2023. He also deployed to Afghanistan.

Wolfe also enlisted as a UH-60 repairer and moved up to MH-60M crew chief. He had no deployments.

“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. Our priority now is to ensure the families of our fallen warriors receive our complete support as we work through this tragedy together,” Col. Roger P. Waleski Jr., commander of the 160th SOAR (Abn.), said in the statement.

There was no indication of enemy action or hostile activity contributing to the mishap, the Pentagon said. The U.S. Army’s Combat Readiness Center is conducting an investigation into the incident.

Micaela Burrow on November 13, 2023

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