Sen. John McCain recently recognized the Army special operations crew chief who was killed off the coast of Yemen as a fellow Arizonian.
Rivera-Lopez was born March 8, 1986, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but McCain, an Arizona Republican and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, tweeted over Labor Day weekend that Rivera-Lopez was from Tucson.
"Cindy & I send our condolences & heartfelt prayers to the friends & family of SSgt. Rivera-Lopez of Tucson," McCain's Tweet read.
Rivera-Lopez was assigned to the Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). The unit, known as the Night Stalkers, specializes in flying difficult nighttime missions, often ferrying ground special operations troops into battle.
Rivera-Lopez originally enlisted in the Army in July 2006 as a UH-60 Black Hawk repairer. He attended Basic Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Eustis, Virginia.
Rivera-Lopez served with D Company, 3-82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, from May 2007 to September 2008. Following his assignment with D Company, he served with the 3-82nd MEDEVAC until May 2013.
Following completion of Enlisted Green Platoon in July 2013, Rivera-Lopez was assigned to D Company, 3/160th SOAR, where he served as an MH-60M Black Hawk maintainer and squad leader.
In November 2014, he was assigned to C Company, 3/160th SOAR, where he served as a section sergeant and MH-60M Black Hawk crew chief.
Rivera-Lopez is a graduate of the Basic Leaders Course; Advanced Leaders Course; Enlisted Green Platoon; Survival, Escape, Resistance and Evasion Level-C; MH-60 Maintainers Course; MH-60 Non-Rated Crew Member Course; Dunker Course; and Basic Airborne Course.
His awards and decorations include the Air Medal (Numeral 2); Army Commendation Medal with Valor; Army Commendation Medal; Army Achievement Medal (two oak leaf clusters); Joint Meritorious Unit Award; Army Good Conduct Medal (3rd award); National Defense Service Medal; Afghanistan Campaign Medal (3 Bronze Service Stars); Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon (Numeral 2); Overseas Service Ribbon; NATO medal; Combat Action Badge; Aviation Badge; and Parachutist Badge.
Five other soldiers were rescued after the helicopter crash, which took place about 20 miles off Yemen's coast during a training flight.
The cause of the crash is under investigation, according to the Pentagon, which also confirmed the helicopter was not involved in a combat mission.
The military has a small number of troops deployed in Yemen to aid the fight against an al-Qaida group in the country.
It has conducted ground raids this year against the terrorist group there, including an operation in late January in which Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William Owens was killed, and an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft was destroyed after it crashed.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.