Airmen Killed in Iraq Helicopter Crash Were from 3 Rescue Units

  • U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. William Posch, a pararescueman from the 308st Rescue Squadron, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, daisy chains his lines from a parachute he used during drop zone familiarization training at Guardian Centers, Perry, Georgia, October 11, 2017. Posch was among seven airmen killed March 15 in a helicopter crash in western Iraq. (Stephen Schester/Air Force)
    U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. William Posch, a pararescueman from the 308st Rescue Squadron, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, daisy chains his lines from a parachute he used during drop zone familiarization training at Guardian Centers, Perry, Georgia, October 11, 2017. Posch was among seven airmen killed March 15 in a helicopter crash in western Iraq. (Stephen Schester/Air Force)
  •  Staff Sergeant Carl Enis, an Air Force pararescueman, takes part in a training exercise in Perry, Ga., on Oct. 13, 2017. He was one of seven service members killed when an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter crashed in Iraq on Thursday. (US Air Force photo/Stephen Schester)
    Staff Sergeant Carl Enis, an Air Force pararescueman, takes part in a training exercise in Perry, Ga., on Oct. 13, 2017. He was one of seven service members killed when an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter crashed in Iraq on Thursday. (US Air Force photo/Stephen Schester)
  • Staff Sergeant Dashan Briggs was one of seven service members killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq on Thursday. (Facebook photo)
    Staff Sergeant Dashan Briggs was one of seven service members killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq on Thursday. (Facebook photo)
  • Christopher J. Raguso, left, and Christopher "Tripp" Zanetis, right, were among seven service members killed when their helicopter crashed in Iraq on Thursday. (Photos courtesy of New York City Fire Department via AP)
    Christopher J. Raguso, left, and Christopher "Tripp" Zanetis, right, were among seven service members killed when their helicopter crashed in Iraq on Thursday. (Photos courtesy of New York City Fire Department via AP)

The Defense Department has identified all seven combat search and rescue airmen killed in the HH-60 Pave Hawk crash on Thursday in western Iraq.

Master Sgt. Christopher J. Raguso, 39, a special missions aviation flight engineer; Capt. Andreas B. O'Keeffe, 37, an HH-60G pilot; Capt. Christopher T. Zanetis, 37, an HH-60G pilot; and Staff Sgt Dashan J. Briggs, 30, a special missions aviation flight engineer, belonged to the 106th Rescue Wing, Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base, according to a Saturday news release. The rescue wing is based on Long Island.

Master Sgt William R. Posch, 36, of Indialantic, Florida; and Staff Sgt Carl P. Enis, 31, of Tallahassee, Florida, belonged to the 308th Rescue Squadron, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida. The squadron, known as an Air Force 'Guardian Angel' personnel and recovery unit, is part of the Air Force Reserve's 920th Rescue Wing.

Also killed was Capt Mark K. Weber, 29, of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Weber was assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.

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"Our hearts go out to the families and squadron teammates of our fallen," Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein posted on Twitter Saturday. "The motto of the rescue community is, 'These things we do that others may live.' I am alive today and serving as CSAF because of them."

"I send my sincere condolences to the families, loved ones and Service members who served beside the Airmen who were lost in this tragic accident," Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said.

"My prayers are with all those affected as we honor their lives and service together," Wilson said separately on Twitter on Saturday.

Various airmen killed in this week's crash had been identified through social media and through reports from friends and family on Friday.

"Christopher Raguso, a New York Air National Guard Flight Engineer, died while protecting our freedom, when his helicopter crashed in Iraq killing all seven on board," the Commack, New York, Fire Department first said on Facebook.

Raguso, of Commack, N.Y., was assigned to the wing's 101st Rescue Squadron, and was also part of the of the New York Fire Department's Division 13 in Queens. He joined the 106th Rescue Wing in 2001, and previously deployed once to Iraq, twice to Afghanistan, once to the Horn of Africa, and to Texas and the Caribbean for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, according to a separate DoD release.

Zanetis, of Long Island City, joined the 106th Rescue Wing in 2008 and was assigned to the wing's 101st Rescue Squadron, defense officials said. A 10-year veteran of the Fire Department of New York, Zanetis had been a fire marshal, but was on leave to become an attorney, according to local media reports. He was also an associate at Debevoise & Plimpton in New York City. Zanetis previously deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in 2011.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement both Zanetis and Raguso were "truly two of New York City's bravest."

O'Keeffe was from Center Moriches, N.Y., and Briggs from Port Jefferson Station, N.Y.

Enis and Posch were both serving in combat roles, as they had before on multiple overseas deployments during their Air Force careers, according to a release from the 920th Rescue Wing.

Posch, an 18-year Air Force veteran, was recently part of a rescue mission at sea to save two German sailors whose sailboat caught fire last July. A month later, he deployed for multiple rescue missions in Texas during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Enis was a pararescueman with the 308th out of Patrick Air Force Base, according to Air Force Times. He joined the unit in 2010, the 920th said in the release.

Members of the 308th "Guardian Angels" are deployed to three locations within the Middle East, officials previously told Military.com.

The Pave Hawk went down at 6:45 P.M. on Thursday and crashed near the town of Qaim in Anbar Province near the Syrian border. Officials quoted by the Associated Press and Stars and Stripes said the helicopter was on a routine flight between two towns when the incident occurred.

The U.S.-led coalition in the area for operations against Islamic State insurgents have an outpost near Qaim to secure the border region with U.S.-backed Iraq and Syrian Democratic Forces.

U.S. Central Command officials on Friday said the crash does not appear to be the result of enemy activity, but remains under investigation.

CentCom said in a separate release that coalition military forces were conducting strikes against Islamic State targets near Al Qaim, with one strike destroying an ISIS supply route.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence expressed condolences Friday to the friends and family of the airmen.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the brave troops lost in the helicopter crash on the Iraq-Syria border yesterday," Trump said on Twitter. "Their sacrifice in service to our country will never be forgotten."

The HH-60 Pave Hawk is a variant of the Army's Black Hawk helicopter, used to conduct personnel recovery and medical recovery missions. The Pave Hawk is often associated with the Air Force's combat search-and-rescue missions, known as CSAR. The aircraft's crew is normally composed of two pilots, one flight engineer and one gunner.

The aging HH-60G Pave Hawk fleet is intended to be replaced within the next decade by the Sikorsky HH-60W, the latest combat rescue helicopter based on the UH-60M Black Hawk.

The crash is believed to be the first helicopter crash in the region since anti-ISIS operations began in 2014.

-- Stars and Stripes contributed to this report.

--Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

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