Hunter AAF Soldier Among Those in Downed Helicopter - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

06/30/05

Hunter AAF Soldier Among Those in Downed Helicopter

A helicopter like this was shot down Tuesday. A helicopter like this was shot down Tuesday.
Staff Sgt. Mike Russell Staff Sgt. Mike Russell

A Chinook helicopter shot down in Afghanistan earlier this week has ties to the Coastal Empire. The Department of Defense isn't saying much on the record, but the brother of one of the soldiers on that helicopter confirmed to WTOC that he was based at Hunter Army Airfield as part of the elite Nightstalkers unit, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.

Staff Sgt. Mike Russell had a good support system back in the US. "I told him to be careful and be safe and I'm proud of him and I'd see him when he got back," his brother, Lee, said.

Earlier this week, though, Lee got the news about his brother that nobody wants to hear.

"At this point, we have recovered the bodies of all 16 servicemen who were on board the MH 47 helicopter that crashed Tuesday," Lt. Gen. James Conway announced today at the Pentagon.

Lt. Gen. Conway says the Chinook was full of special operations troops, but wouldn't say which group or where it was based. They had been on their way to serve as reinforcements when they came under attack in the rocky terrain of the Afghanistan mountains.

"The aircraft was taking indirect fire, direct fire from elements on the ground," said Col. James Yonts. "The aircraft, as it was dropping off those personnel, crashed."

Lee Russell lives in North Carolina, but is in the Coastal Empire, tonight mourning with his brother's family, and remembering a proud Nightstalker.

"He never really talked about how bad things were or dangerous," he said. "He talked about successes of the guys and stuff like that."

We talked with several people at the Department of Defense today. They said they won't release whether there were more Nightstalkers or others from the Coastal Empire on the helicopter until tomorrow at the earliest.

Reported by: Chris Cowperthwaite, ccowperthwaite@wtoc.com

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