NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It was another heartbreaking incident for a community already in mourning.
Five Fort Campbell soldiers were killed recently in a helicopter crash overseas. All five were part of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, adding to the growing list of service members who have died this year.
“The last phrase of our creed essentially says that we love to fight, fight to win, and we would rather die than quit. Night Stalkers don’t quit,” said Brian Cupko with the Night Stalker Foundation.
The unit of “Night Stalkers,” better known as the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, provides highly specialized aviation capabilities and support in the most challenging environments around the globe for elite special operations forces engaged in no-fail missions.
“The main reason for the unit is to provide precision, rotary wing helicopter infiltration or extraction for special operations and ground forces,” explained Cupko.
This week, the Clarksville community is mourning again. The latest incident comes less than eight months after nine Fort Campbell soldiers died when two Black Hawk helicopters collided in Kentucky.
Cupko served as part of the 160th Night Stalkers for 15 years, making what happened earlier this month hard to cope with. However, it’s also the reason why he is part of the Night Stalker Foundation.
“The profession of arms is dangerous and there is always this element of danger, so we kind of know that there is a possibility obviously,” Cupko said.
On Friday, Nov. 10, according to the U.S. European Command, the aircraft “suffered a mishap” during a routine air refueling mission as part of military training. The aircraft crashed into the sea off the coast of Cyprus, killing five service members.
The five service members killed in the crash have been identified 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
- Sgt. Cade M. Wolfe, 24, of Mankato, Minnesota
“It’s certainly emotional. In particular this year, it’s been a brutal year for army aviation. I think we are at 19 souls lost,” said Spencer Payne with the Brotallion Blue Skies Foundation.
So far this year, there have been four incidents that have claimed the lives of aviation service members:
- February: Two Tennessee National Guard pilots died in Black Hawk crashes in Alabama.
- March: Nine Fort Campbell soldiers died when two Black Hawk helicopters collided in Kentucky.
- April: Three soldiers were killed when two Army helicopters crashed in Alaska.
- November: Five Fort Campbell soldiers died during a “mishap” off the coast of Cyprus.
“It all boils down to everybody that goes into military aviation is aware of the risks that go kind of with it, and that’s one of the reasons we started this; it’s not an if, it’s a when,” explained Payne.
Both organizations are helping to provide financial support to the Fort Campbell families who died this month. To learn how to help and more about each organization click the links below: