Marine Corps Identifies 2 Pilots Killed in Arizona Helicopter Crash

An AH-1Z super cobra helicopter circles around to a target for immediate fire drills at a range northwest of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Aug. 15., 2013 in support of a team of joint terminal attack controllers with 3RD Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company Marine Forces Reserve. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Uriel Avendano)
An AH-1Z super cobra helicopter circles around to a target for immediate fire drills at a range northwest of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Aug. 15., 2013 in support of a team of joint terminal attack controllers with 3RD Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company Marine Forces Reserve. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Uriel Avendano)

The Marine Corps identified the two officers killed when their AH-1Z Viper helicopter crashed during a training mission in Arizona on Saturday night.

Maj. Matthew M. Wiegand, 34, and Capt. Travis W. Brannon, 30, died in the crash, Marine officials said Monday. The two were conducting routine training at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma as part of the semi-annual Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course, which prepares pilots for real-world missions.

Wiegand, from Ambler, Pennsylvania, was assigned to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One, based at Yuma. Brannon was assigned to the Hawaii-based Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367.

"It is a somber day for the entire Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command (MAGTFTC) as we mourn this tremendous loss," Brig. Gen. Roger Turner Jr., head of the command, said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers remain with their families and loved ones during this extremely difficult time."

The Marine Corps is investigating the cause of the accident. The helicopter crashed at about 8:45 p.m. on Saturday, but no additional details about the incident have been released.

Wiegand joined the Marine Corps in 2008 and held qualifications in the AH-1W Super Cobra and AH-1Z Viper helicopters. He had deployed to Okinawa, Japan, and was previously based at Naval Station Pensacola in Florida and Camp Pendleton, California.

Brannon was attending Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course at the time of the crash. He had deployed to Australia as part of Marine Rotational Force-Darwin and was also previously based at Pensacola and Camp Pendleton.

"We join the families of Maj. Wiegand and Capt. Brannon in mourning the loss of a loved one," Col. Kelvin Gallman, Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One's commanding officer, said in a statement. "Our most valued assets are the individual Marines and our primary focus is supporting the families during this difficult time."

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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