Army Identifies Fallen Savannah Soldiers - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

06/03/06

Army Identifies Fallen Savannah Soldiers

The Army has released the names of four Hunter Army Airfield soldiers who were killed in a helicopter crash in Southwest Georgia on Thursday. The men were members of the Third Battalion 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment A-Company, known as the Nightstalkers. They died when their M-H 47 Special Operations Chinook helicopter hit a television tower's guy wire and crashed in a field in Colquitt County, Georgia.

The men are: Sergeant Christopher Erberich, Sergeant Michael Hall, Sergeant Rhonald Meeks, and Chief Warrant Officer Four Michael Wright. One of the pilots of the Chinook survived the crash. He is out of the hospital and home with his family. The Army is not releasing his name.

The crew was on a training mission, heading from Savannah to Fort Rucker, Alabama. Army investigators from Fort Rucker are still trying to find out what went wrong.

"The unit was deeply saddened and shocked at the word of this tragic accident," explained Kim Laudano, a spokeswoman for the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. "It's not something you ever want to hear, whether it's at home or abroad."

The Nightstalkers were all combat veterans, who had deployed several times to Iraq and Afghanistan.

"They are the best of the best at what they do," said Laudano. "They have the highest levels of training. They have to maintain the highest levels of combat readiness and have been actively involved in the global war on terror since 2001."

Sergeant Erberich, who was from California, was recognized by the Army many times for his service. Sergeant Hall was from Arkansas. His family said he died doing what he loved to do. Sergeant Meeks was from Texas. His family said he knew the risks, but was proud to be a soldier. Chief Warrant Officer Four Wright, from Indiana, served in the armed forces for 23 years. His family said he was proud to serve his country, fighting so others wouldn't have to. All the men left behind mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, wives and young children.

"The job they do is inherently dangerous," added Laudano. "They volunteer for it. They know that every time they come to work, training or combat, they are putting their lives in harm's way. We are proud of our soldiers."

The Nightstalkers will hold a memorial service for their fallen comrades at Hunter Army Airfield on Tuesday, June Sixth, at 2:00 p.m. The service is closed to the public.

Reported by: Michelle Paynter, mpaynter@wtoc.com

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