News

Three Bragg airmen among 30 US dead in Afghan copter crash

Posted August 11, 2011 6:33 a.m. EDT
Updated August 12, 2011 8:41 p.m. EDT

— Three of the 30 U.S. servicemen killed in an Afghanistan helicopter crash last weekend were based at Fort Bragg's Pope Field, the Department of Defense said Thursday.

Tech Sgt. John W. Brown, 33, of Tallahassee, Fla., Staff Sgt. Andrew W. Harvell, 26, of Long Beach, Calif., and Tech Sgt. Daniel L. Zerbe, 28, of York, Pa., were killed when a rocket-propelled grenade launched by Taliban insurgents in eastern Afghanistan hit their CH-47 Chinook helicopter.

All three were assigned to the 24th Special Tactics Squadron, and a private memorial service for the men was held at Fort Bragg on Thursday.

"This crash leaves us in (Air Force Special Operations Command) with heavy hearts," Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel said in a statement. "My deepest sympathies extend to the families of our fallen brethren and to their teammates. As we remember their sacrifice, we will press on and continue to provide unparalleled air support to our combatant commanders."

The flag flew at half-staff outside Zerbe's Carolina Lakes neighborhood in Moore County. A high school friend and fellow serviceman called him a hero.

"He was so proud he was serving his country," Mike Vogel said.

Brown's mother, Elizabeth Newlun, said her son studied pre-med before joining the Air Force and being assigned to work with the SEALs.

"He was just an all-American G.I. Joe. Just a great guy who loved his country," Newlun said from her Arkansas home.

She read from a letter written by Brown's uncle, which she said best describes her son.

"John Brown was a Rambo without the attitude. He was a humble healer," the letter said. "He was brave but never arrogant, powerful but always gentle. A smart man who knew himself and chose his words carefully."

Harvell's family issued a statement through the Air Force, saying: "Andy was a loving husband to his wife Krista, a caring father to his two children Hunter and Ethan and a proud United States Air Force combat controller. He was also a warrior who struck fear in the hearts of terrorists. We will miss him forever, but we take solace knowing he gave his life serving his country and fighting for what he believed was right." 

Twenty-two Navy SEALs, five soldiers, a civilian interpreter and seven Afghan commandos also were killed in the crash. One of the SEALs killed was Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher G. Campbell, 36, of Jacksonville.

The helicopter was transporting the troops to an ongoing battle early Saturday between coalition forces and insurgents in eastern Wardak province, near the capital city of Kabul, officials said.

The operation began as a search for a Taliban leader responsible for insurgent efforts in the Tangi Valley, officials said, and the helicopter was providing assistance to ground forces as they engaged several insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and AK-47 assault rifles.

American warplanes killed the Taliban rebels responsible for the attack during an air strike Monday.

The following sailors assigned to an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit were killed:

  • Lt. Cmdr. (SEAL) Jonas B. Kelsall, 32, of Shreveport, La.
  • Special Warfare Operator Master Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Louis J. Langlais, 44, of Santa Barbara, Calif.
  • Special Warfare Operator Senior Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Thomas A. Ratzlaff, 34, of Green Forest, Ark.
  • Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Senior Chief Petty Officer (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist) Kraig M. Vickers 36, of Kokomo, Hawaii
  • Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Brian R. Bill, 31, of Stamford, Conn.
  • Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) John W. Faas, 31, of Minneapolis
  • Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Kevin A. Houston, 35, of West Hyannisport, Mass.
  • Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Matthew D. Mason, 37, of Kansas City, Mo.
  • Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Stephen M. Mills, 35, of Fort Worth, Texas
  • Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Chief Petty Officer (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist/Diver) Nicholas H. Null, 30, of Washington, W.Va.
  • Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Robert J. Reeves, 32, of Shreveport, La.
  • Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Heath M. Robinson, 34, of Detroit
  • Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Darrik C. Benson, 28, of Angwin, Calif.
  • Information Systems Technician Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist) Jared W. Day, 28, of Taylorsville, Utah
  • Master-at-Arms Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist) John Douangdara, 26, of South Sioux City, Neb.
  • Cryptologist Technician (Collection) Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist) Michael J. Strange, 25, of Philadelphia
  • Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL/Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist) Jon T. Tumilson, 35, of Rockford, Iowa
  • Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Aaron C. Vaughn, 30, of Stuart, Fla.
  • Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Jason R. Workman, 32, of Blanding, Utah

The following sailors assigned to a West Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit were killed:

  • Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Jesse D. Pittman, 27, of Ukiah, Calif.
  • Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 2nd Class (SEAL) Nicholas P. Spehar, 24, of Saint Paul, Minn.

The soldiers killed were:

  • Chief Warrant Officer David R. Carter, 47, of Centennial, Colo. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), Aurora, Colo.
  • Chief Warrant Officer Bryan J. Nichols, 31, of Hays, Kan. He was assigned to the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), New Century, Kan.
  • Sgt. Patrick D. Hamburger, 30, of Lincoln, Neb. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), Grand Island, Neb.
  • Sgt. Alexander J. Bennett, 24, of Tacoma, Wash. He was assigned to the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), New Century, Kan.
  • Spc. Spencer C. Duncan, 21, of Olathe, Kan. He was assigned to the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), New Century, Kan.