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5 US Special Ops killed in helicopter crash

Utah Army National Guard UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter during airborne training at Fairfield, Utah, June 20, 2012. (Staff Sgt. Stephany Richards/U.S. Army)
November 13, 2023

Five U.S. Special Operators were killed in an MH-60 Blackhawk helicopter crash Friday in the Mediterranean Sea due to a “mishap” that occurred during a “routine” air refueling training mission.

“During a routine air refueling mission as part of military training, a U.S. military aircraft carrying five service members suffered a mishap and crashed into the Mediterranean Sea,” U.S. European Command said in a statement. “All five of the service members onboard the aircraft were killed.”

Prior to the updated statement from U.S. European Command, the military released a statement explaining that a military aircraft had “suffered a mishap” during a training operation in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The U.S. military emphasized that the “aircraft sortie was purely related to training” and had not been caused by any “hostile activity” in the region.

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Announcing the names of the five special operators killed in Friday’s helicopter crash, the Department of Defense reiterated that the helicopter crash had been caused by a training accident, stating, “The MH-60 Blackhawk was conducting aerial refueling training when the aircraft experienced an in-flight emergency resulting in the crash.”

The five special operators included Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen R. Dwyer, age 38, from Clarksville, Tennessee; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Shane M. Barnes, age 34, from Sacramento, California; Staff Sgt. Tanner W. Grone, age 26, from Gorham, New Hampshire; Sgt. Andrew P. Southard, age 27, from Apache Junction, Arizona; and Sgt. Cade M. Wolfe, age 24, from Mankato, Minnesota.

Each of the U.S. service members killed in Friday’s training accident belonged to the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, which is based out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

In response to the tragic training accident, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin released a statement, saying, “We mourn the tragic loss of five U.S. service members during a training accident in the Mediterranean Sea late Friday evening. While we continue to gather more information about this deadly crash, it is another stark reminder that the brave men and women who defend our great nation put their lives on the line each and every day to keep our country safe.”

Austin explained that the U.S. service members who were killed in the training accident “represent the best of America,” emphasizing that the sacrifice and service of the special operators will not be forgotten. He added, “My prayers are with the patriots we have lost today and their families, loved ones, and teammates.”

President Joe Biden also released a statement on X regarding the helicopter crash that occurred over Veterans Day weekend,

“Jill and I mourn the loss of 5 American service members who died when their aircraft crashed in the Mediterranean Sea during a training mission,” he stated. “We are praying for the families and friends who lost a precious loved one — a piece of their soul. Our entire nation shares their grief.”