Army, Guard Units Participating in Sinai Observer Mission That Sustained Tragic Helo Crash

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U.S. units support the Multinational Force and Observers peacekeeping mission.
U.S. troops case the colors during a transfer of authority ceremony on South Camp, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on March 8, 2020. U.S. units support the Multinational Force and Observers peacekeeping mission. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Eliverto Larios)

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect a changed casualty total from Multinational Force & Observers.

The identities of five American service members killed in Thursday's helicopter crash remain unknown, but they were part of a U.S. military force of about 450 active-duty Army and National Guard personnel participating in an observer mission in the Sinai Peninsula.

The uniformed service members were on a "routine mission" in the vicinity of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, with one French service member and one Czech service member, who were also killed in the crash, according to a statement from the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO). Another U.S. service member, the organization said, had survived the crash and was being treated.

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The Pentagon has confirmed that U.S. service members died in the crash.

"The Defense Department is deeply saddened by the loss of six U.S. and two partner nation service members in a helicopter crash in the Sinai Peninsula operating with the United Nations Multinational Force and Observers (MFO)," Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller said in a statement, highlighting that it occurred the day after Veterans Day.

"Yesterday, we recognized the sacrifice of millions of American veterans who have defended our nation for generations, and today we are tragically reminded of the last full measure our uniformed warriors may pay for their service," he said.

Late Thursday afternoon, MFO updated its statement to say that five, not six, U.S. service members had died in the crash.

The U.S. has been part of the 13-nation international force that monitors the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt for nearly four decades.

The MFO plans to conduct an investigation to determine the cause of the accident, but so far, "There is no information to indicate the crash was anything except an accident," according to the MFO statement.

The identities of the service members killed in the crash will be released after next of kin have been notified, it adds.

The U.S. Army contingent of the MFO -- the largest element -- is currently under the control of the 1st Theater Sustainment Command out of Fort Knox, Kentucky.

A public affairs officer with 1st TSC told Military.com the unit did not immediately have information to release, referring queries to the MFO. An MFO official did not respond to a request for comment.

Soldiers from the 1st Squadron,112th Cavalry Regiment, Texas National Guard, arrived in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on March 8 to assume the U.S. role of the MFO mission from the 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment, of the Guam National Guard.

U.S. forces are responsible for performing multiple missions while serving on the MFO, such as aviation, logistics, medical, engineering, force protection and communications support.

The headquarters of the U.S. military contingent in the MFO is known as Task Force Sinai, which is organized to provide command and control and administrative support to all U.S. soldiers assigned to the MFO. The task force is commanded by a colonel and includes an infantry battalion and support elements, such as a medical company, aviation company and an explosive ordnance disposal detachment.

The soldiers are responsible for manning a number of remote outposts along the Sinai Peninsula and Red Sea. Their primary mission during their nine-month deployment is to observe and report compliance of the Camp David Accords Peace Treaty.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

Related: Officials: 8 Peacekeepers, Including 6 Americans, Killed in Sinai Helicopter Crash

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