Christian Philip Skoglund
Captain, United States Army
A 31-year-old Racine native died Thursday from injuries sustained when his helicopter crashed in northern Italy, killing at least four more people and injuring six others.
Captain Christian Skoglund, a Park High School graduate, was one of 11 soldiers aboard the UH-60 Black Hawk Army helicopter when it crashed in an uninhabited area roughly 22 miles southwest of Aviano, Italy. The cause of the crash is unknown, according to a U.S. Army spokesman. The incident is under investigation.
Skoglund grew up in Racine. Family gathered through the day at the family’s home in Racine. Phil Skoglund, Christian’s father, learned early Thursday morning that his son was injured in the crash, but he didn’t know how badly.
"We’re praying for Christian and all the other soldiers," Phil Skoglund said Thursday, shortly before learning his eldest son had died from his injuries. Christian’s wife, Elizabeth, called from Italy and informed her in-laws of her husband’s death. The couple celebrated their first wedding anniversary in July.
The Rev. Spencer DeBurgh, pastor at Racine Bible Church, said Skoglund was a man who made his family and the Racine community proud.
"The good news of the Gospel is that, through our savior Jesus Christ, we have eternal life," DeBurgh said. "Christian Skoglund knew the Lord Jesus as his savior and he is with his savior in glory."
Christian Skoglund, a deeply religious man from a deeply religious family, grew up in the Racine Bible Church, where his parents are still members. DeBurgh, who said he had only known Christian for a few years, visited Aviano Air Base in May with his wife. During the trip Skoglund showed DeBurgh his helicopter.
Christian Skoglund was a faithful son and a faithful husband, DeBurgh said. "I’m raising two sons. He was a man who I could point to and say, ‘I want you to be like him,’ " DeBurgh said. "I have talked to my sons about him as a role model."
Christian Skoglund has many relatives living in Racine. They gathered through the day for comfort. Ken Black, a relative of Christian’s, said the family does not know for sure that Christian piloted the helicopter.
The helicopter left Aviano Air Base on a training mission and crashed along the banks of the Piave River, near the small town of Santa Lucia di Piave, according to Bloomberg News.
"Yesterday our family was rejoicing because my wife and I became grandparents for the first time," Black said. "Yesterday was the best day and today is the worst day."
In 2001, Skoglund graduated from the Rolling Thunder Army ROTC at Wheaton College, in Wheaton, Ill. He then trained to be a U.S. Army pilot in Fort Rucker, Alabama, where he played rugby.
He served two years in Korea and one year in Kuwait. Skoglund was stationed at Aviano Air Base, located in northeastern Italy, roughly 74 miles north of Venice. Aviano’s current mission is to conduct regional and expeditionary operations under NATO.
"The military liked him a lot. He was a young shining star. He was a good platoon leader. He took his job seriously," Black said. "He was a pretty special person. He was on the U.S. Army rugby team. He did a lot of neat things. He was an adventuresome person."
Christian Skoglund’s passion was also one of his family’s greatest worries. Skoglund graduated in 1994 from Park High School, where he played tennis and soccer. He loved flying, his father said.
Television footage from Italy showed the charred, smoldering wreckage of the chopper. It broke into at least two large pieces when it crashed around noon Central European Time; about 5 a.m. in Central Daylight Time.
Firefighters pulled bodies from the wreckage and transported the injured to area hospitals.
It’s a concern that military parents carry with them every day, Phil Skoglund said — that their child might be injured while serving. The father and son spoke last week about a recent mission Christian had flown.
"It was an awesome Army day," Phil Skoglund said his son, a company commander, told him. "He really liked working with his men."
Phil Skoglund said his wife, Kay, had spoken to their son the day before he died.
Christian Skoglund leaves behind his wife,
Elizabeth, his parents, Phil and Kay, his brothers, Erik and Lars, and
a sister, Maja.
Captain Christian Skoglund knew he loved to fly, but he never realized how important the bonds of friendship in the military would be.
Skoglund, a Racine native, was among at least five people killed in northern Italy on Thursday after a U.S. Army helicopter crashed.
“His men loved him, and he loved his men,” said his father, Phil Skoglund, a Milwaukee high school principal who confirmed he’d been contacted earlier Thursday about his son’s death.
Phil Skoglund said Christian, 31, suffered head trauma in the crash.
“He was going to get a CAT scan for that, he was unconscious at the time, and the next thing I knew, we heard that he was dead,” his father said.
Phil Skoglund said he wanted his son to be remembered as a devout Christian who enjoyed military service and the friends he had made.
“He was a strong, committed Christian and looks very much out for the welfare of the people he works with and he didn’t realize he was going to like that part of the job as much as he did,” Skoglund said. “He knew he was going to like the flying, but he really liked and, in effect, ministered to the people that he worked with, just helped them meet their needs in daily life.”
Eleven U.S. service members were on board the UH-60 Army Black Hawk helicopter, U.S. Army Europe said in a statement released by its headquarters in Heidelberg, Germany.
The Italian fire department said four bodies had been pulled from the wreckage of the chopper, which went down near the city of Treviso, and six people had been injured.
The U.S. Army said one of the injured people later died.
Television footage showed the charred remains of the chopper, which broke into at least two pieces, smoldering in a swampy field.
The helicopter attached to 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment crashed around midday about 22 miles southwest of Aviano, the Army said.
The UH-60 Black Hawk is the Army’s general utility helicopter — used for transporting troops and equipment, air assault, medical evacuations and to support special operations as well as other missions.
After graduating from Park High School in 1994, Christian Skoglund completed ROTC training at Wheaton College, in Wheaton, Illinois.
“When he was in ROTC training in college he began to see the opportunity, and asked for the aviation branch and because he had a good record, he got it and he was ecstatic when he got it,” Phil Skoglund said.
Skoglund said his son trained for a year and a half in Fort Rucker, Alabama, before serving two years in Korea and another in Kuwait before heading to the U.S. Air Force base in Aviano, Italy.
“It was a good deal,” Phil Skoglund said. “It was a really good thing for him and focused him on important leadership skills in life.”
Christian’s wife, Elizabeth, was on her way
to Italy, Phil Skoglund said. The couple married 15 months ago, and have
no children. Funeral arrangements were pending.
He was born on August 2, 1976. Christian was a graduate of Jefferson, McKinley, and Park (Class of 1994) in Racine; he went to Bible School at Bodenseehof in Germany, went on missions trips to Honduras and Mexico, then to Wheaton (Illinois) College, where he graduated in 2000 with a Degree in Environmental Science. He was commissioned through ROTC as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. He graduated from Flight School at Fort Rucker, Alabama, in 2002 and served two years in Korea, one tour in Kuwait, and was currently stationed in Italy.
He loved sports and played soccer in high school, soccer and hockey in college, and then was an Armed Services All-Star rugby player. Christian's world was big and inclusive; he had a smile and encouraging words for everyone. He had enormous enthusiasm, endurance, and compassion. He was committed to his loving Lord and saw all aspects of his life as a gift from Him - so he enjoyed it to the full, and took the responsibility that comes with opportunity. He is remembered with affection and respect by those from every part of his life, especially from his fellow servicemen.
He was a devoted husband of Elizabeth (nee: Nordberg) of Canton, New York. Generous and affectionate son of Phil and Kay Skoglund. Big brother of Maja Kay, Erik, and Lars. He loved his extended family, the Nordbergs, Blacks, Riches, LeBres, Hattixes, Skoglunds; and so many friends and co-workers.
There will be a Memorial service at Racine Bible Church on Saturday, December 8, 2007, at 2 p.m. Visitation and a Funeral service will be held at Murphy's Funeral Home in Arlington, Virginia. on Tuesday, December 11, 2007, beginning at 6 p.m. Interment will be at Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday, December 12, 2007, at 11 a.m.
Christian was blessed by his involvement over the years at Fort Wilderness, a Christian camp in Northern Wisconsin. The Christian Skoglund Memorial Fund has been established through the Educator's Credit Union in Racine. All gifts to this fund will be used for scholarships to this camp or to improvements to its facilities and programs. "I have come that they might have life, and have it abundantly." John 10:10
Soldiers killed in copter crash identified
The aviators were identified as Captain Christian P. Skoglund, 31, of Racine, Wisconsin, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Davidangelo F. Alvarez, 31, of Manteca, California.
Both pilots and their two enlisted crew members, who remain hospitalized, were assigned to G Company, 52nd Regiment, 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment, 12th Combat Air Brigade, according to a press release.
The four others killed were airmen with the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base, the Air Force announced Saturday.
They were identified as Captain Cartize B. Durham, Staff Sergeant Robert D. Rogers, Staff Sergeant Mark A. Spence and Senior Airman Kenneth P. Hauprich Jr.
Three other airmen, Technical Sergeant Tanisha A. Pryor, Senior Airman Michael J. Costley and Senior Airman Joshua A. Hanak, were aboard the flight and remain hospitalized.
The crash occurred about 22 miles south of Aviano, when the aircraft went down for unexplained reasons during a joint operations training flight.
The flight was part of a re-enlistment ceremony for the airmen.
Television footage showed the charred remains of the helicopter, which broke into at least two pieces, smoldering in a swampy field.
“We are devastated by this tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family members, squadron members and friends of those who lost their lives and those who are recovering from their injuries,” said Brigadier General Craig Franklin, 31st Fighter Wing commander.
Four service members were dead when emergency responders arrived at the crash site. A fifth died in an Italian hospital later that day, and a sixth died that night after arriving at the facility in “serious hemorrhagic shock,” said hospital spokesman Fabio Bruno.
Lieutenant Colonel Troy Krings, commander of the 1-214th Aviation Regiment said in the press release that Skoglund “was a positive influence on all of the soldiers in his company and in the 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment.”
“Captain Skoglund was an inspiring leader and a cherished friend. His soldiers truly respected him and were dedicated to the goals he set,” Krings said.
Alvarez, Krings said in the release, “was a talented warrant officer and skillful aviator. He volunteered to serve his country as a soldier and professional aviator serving more than 13 years of honorable service. He was deeply respected and liked by all. He had a very positive and lasting influence on all of the unit’s soldiers and family members. The soldiers of the battalion and his company are extremely blessed to have served with him.”
Both men, he said, “will be greatly missed, but never forgotten.”
SKOGLUND, CHRISTIAN P
Posted: 7 December 2007 Upated: 19 March 2008 Updated: 10 November 2011
Photo By Eileen Horan, November 2011