Army Identifies Soldiers Killed in Apache Helicopter Crash

1st Lt. Clayton R. Cullen and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kevin F. Burke died Jan. 20, 2018, in an AH-64 Apache helicopter crash at Fort Irwin California. (U.S. Army photos)
1st Lt. Clayton R. Cullen and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kevin F. Burke died Jan. 20, 2018, in an AH-64 Apache helicopter crash at Fort Irwin California. (U.S. Army photos)

The U.S. Army has identified two soldiers who were killed when the AH-64 Apache helicopter they were flying crashed early Saturday.

The pilot and co-pilot were identified as 1st Lt. Clayton R. Cullen, of Indiana, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kevin F. Burke, of California, according to a statement Monday from Fort Carson, Colorado, where both soldiers were assigned to the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division.

"We are all deeply saddened by the deaths of 1st Lt. Clayton R. Cullen and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kevin F. Burke," Col. Scott Gallaway, the brigade commander, said in the statement.

"These gentlemen exemplified all the attributes we expect from our very best leaders," he added. "They were selfless, mission-focused, and committed to their teammates. Our heartfelt prayers and condolences go out to Clayton's and Kevin's families. These two young leaders left an indelible mark on the entire Iron Eagle team. We will forever be better soldiers, and a more combat-ready aviation brigade, due to their leadership."

The gunship went down in the predawn hours during a pre-deployment training exercise at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

The accident occurred around 1 a.m., just after the federal government shut down. While the closure didn't play a role in the incident, it impacted the surviving family members -- at least temporarily.

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Pentagon officials made clear before the funding expiration began at midnight Friday that death gratuity payments of $100,000 to the families of troops killed in the line of duty would be suspended for the duration of the shutdown.

To get around the red tape, the non-profit Fisher House pledged to make the payments.

"Families like the ones we helped in 2013 are very deserving," Ken Fisher, chairman and chief executive officer of Fisher House, said in a statement, which was first reported by Stars & Stripes. "They are deeply dedicated to overcoming the challenges they confront."

Fisher added, "Helping them isn't charity but rather this nation's solemn duty. In these very tough situations, they don't quit. Neither should we."

In November, the head of Army aviation, Maj. Gen. William Gayler, told Congress his pilots' flight hours were at their lowest levels in 30 years, Fox News reported.

And last year, twice as many U.S. troops were killed in non-combat aviation crashes compared to the year before, according to the news organization.

In a speech Friday at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C., Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned elected leaders of the consequences of not approving a federal budget.

"Without a sustained budget, ships will not receive the required maintenance to put to sea; the ships already at sea will be extended outside of port; aircraft will remain on the ground, their pilots not at the sharpest edge; and eventually, eventually ammunition, training and manpower will not be sufficient to deter war," he said.

-- Richard Sisk contributed to this report.

-- Brendan McGarry can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.

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