The U.S. service members who died early Wednesday in an Afghanistan helicopter crash have been identified.
The Pentagon identified the two fallen members as Chief Warrant Officer 2 David C. Knadle, 33, of Tarrant, Texas; and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kirk T. Fuchigami, 25, of Keaau, Hawaii, according to a U.S. Army release emailed to American Military News on Thursday.
The two members were providing security for ground troops in Logar Province, Afghanistan when their helicopter crashed. Both had deployed to Afghanistan in October and were assigned to 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood.
Knadle was an Apache helicopter pilot and had been serving since April 2013. Fuchigami was also an Apache helicopter pilot and had been serving since May 2017.
Both Knadle and Fuchigami were recipients of the Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal, National Defense Service Medal, and more.
“First Attack is saddened by the tragic loss of Chief Warrant Officer 2 David C. Knadle and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kirk T. Fuchigami Jr,” said Lt. Col. Adam Camarano, commander, 1-227th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion. “Our heartfelt condolences go to both families and their friends during this difficult time. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Knadel and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Fuchigami will always be remembered as a part of the heroic legacy of the 1st Cavalry Division; forged by the sacrifices of brave Cavalry Troopers who have laid down their lives in defense of freedom.”
A NATO Resolute Support statement had confirmed the incident Wednesday and said an investigation was underway to determine the cause of the crash, but it did not initially appear to be caused by enemy fire.
The Taliban immediately claimed credit for the attack, which the U.S. has refuted as false.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told the Associated Press that the group was responsible for downing a U.S. Chinook helicopter at approximately 1 a.m. local time during a hostile engagement with “invaders and their hirelings” in the Logar Province.
The latest two casualties mark 19 U.S. deaths in Afghanistan this year, in addition to three non-combat deaths.
The previous deaths in Afghanistan occurred in September.
The U.S. has been attempting to revive peace talks with the Taliban in recent weeks.
The Afghan government and the Taliban completed a prisoner swap this week, involving the Afghan’s release of three high profile Taliban prisoners in exchange for the Taliban’s release of an American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks who had been abducted and imprisoned three years ago.