David P. Senft
Staff Sergeant, United States Army
Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 1069-10
DOD Identifies Army Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Staff Sergeant David P. Senft, 27, of Grass Valley, California, died November 15, 2010, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained in a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 5th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
For more information the media may contact Fort Campbell public affairs office at 270-798-3025.
18 November 2010:
A Fort Campbell soldier has died from a noncombat injury in Afghanistan.
The military said 27-year-old Staff Sergeant David P. Senft of Grass Valley, California, died Monday after being injured at Kandahar Airfield.
Senft was a UH-60 helicopter repairman assigned to the 5th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division.
The post said he joined the Army in March 2002 and arrived at Fort Campbell in May 2008.
Survivors include his wife, Private. Alyssa S. Senft of Fort Lewis, Washington; son, Landon N. Ryan of Sardinia, Ohio; mother, Lee A Snyder of Riverbank, California; and father, David H. Senft of Grass Valley.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a statement Thursday upon learning of Senft's death.
"Staff Sergeant David Senft was a courageous soldier who gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country. Maria and I were deeply saddened to learn of his death and will be forever grateful for his selfless service. On behalf of all Californians, we extend our sympathies to David’s family and loved ones during this difficult time," Schwarzenegger said in a statement.
Flags at the state Capitol will be flown at
half-staff in honor of Senft.
A Grass Valley, California, soldier found dead one week ago in Afghanistan is set to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, but the death of 27-year-old Army Staff Sergeant David Senft in Afghanistan one week ago remains shrouded in mystery.
Senft’s body was found inside the security fences of Kandahar Airfield. Senft’s father worked at the the massive air base as an electrician, and said his son’s body was found with a single gunshot wound in the deserted location.
The elder Senft said he doesn’t believe his son committed suicide. He said his son was recently married and had advanced toward his goal of flying a Black Hawk helicopter.
The father hoped to get some answers from the results of Friday’s autopsy, due soon.
“I cannot let it go,” Senft said. “There are too many questions about my son’s death.”
The young man is survived by a wife, his parents,
a five-year-old son, older sister and younger brother.
Soldier's death angers father
By James Risen
Courtesy of The New York Times
1 January 2011
A gentle snow fell on the funeral of Staff Sgt. David Senft at Arlington National Cemetery on December 16, 2010, when his bitterly divided California family came together to say goodbye. His 5-year-old son received a flag from a grateful nation.
But that brief moment of peace could not hide the fact that for his family and friends and the soldiers who had served with him in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, too many unanswered questions remained about Senft's lonely death in a parked sport utility vehicle on a U.S. air base in Afghanistan, and about whether the Army could have done more to prevent it.
Officially, the Army says that Senft, 27, a crew chief on a Black Hawk helicopter in the 101st Airborne Division's aviation brigade, was killed as a result of "injuries sustained in a noncombat-related incident" at Kandahar Air Base on November 15, 2010. No specific cause of death has been announced. Army officials say three separate inquiries into the death are under way.
But his father, also named David Senft, an electrician from Grass Valley who had worked in Afghanistan for a military contractor, is convinced that his son committed suicide, as are many of his friends and family members and the soldiers who served with him.
The evidence appears overwhelming. An investigator for the Army's Criminal Investigative Division, which has been looking into the death, has told Senft's father by e-mail that his son was found dead with a single bullet hole in his head, a stolen M-4 automatic weapon in his hands and his body slumped over in the SUV, which was parked outside the air base's ammunition supply point. By his side was his cell phone, displaying a text message with no time or date stamp, saying only, "I don't know what to say, I'm sorry."
With Senft, the warning signs were blaring.
The Army declared him fit for duty and ordered him to Afghanistan after he had twice attempted suicide at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and after he had been sent to a mental institution near the base, the home of the 101st. After his arrival at Kandahar early in 2010, he was so troubled that the Army took away his weapon and forced him into counseling on the air base, according to the e-mails from the Army investigator. But he was assigned a roommate who was fully armed. CID investigators have identified the M-4 with which Senft was killed as belonging to his roommate.
"I question why, if he was suicidal, and they had to take away his gun, why was he allowed to stay in Afghanistan?" asked Senft's father. "Why did they allow him to deploy in the first place, and why did they leave him there?"
Defense Department officials have frequently spoken about how suicide prevention has become a top priority, and in interviews, officials noted that the National Institute of Mental Health was now leading a major study of Army suicides.
Ever since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began, suicides among American troops have been soaring, as military personnel become mentally exhausted and traumatized from repeated deployments to combat zones. In 2004, the Army reported that 67 soldiers on active duty committed suicide; by 2009 that number had jumped to 162. The Army reported 144 suicides in 2010 through November, and officials say it is now beginning to see a sharp rise in suicides among nonactive duty National Guard and Reserve personnel who are not currently deployed.
It is unclear how much the Army knew of Senft's deterioration. But Colonel Chris Philbrick, deputy director of the Army's health promotion and risk reduction task force, which handles suicide prevention programs, said that a medical determination of cause of death, a law enforcement review of the matter by Army investigators, and an internal review of both Senft's personnel history and the handling of his case by his chain of command were all ongoing.
Senft joined the Army in early 2002, just months after the September 11 attacks.
After basic training, he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and in 2003 he was sent to Iraq as a member of a Black Hawk helicopter crew.
His experiences during that first combat deployment had a major impact on him, according to close friends. In one episode that he often recounted to both his family and friends, he told of witnessing the crash of an evacuation helicopter filled with medical personnel and wounded soldiers that had been shot down by insurgents. He and his Black Hawk crew were ordered to the crash site, and the gruesome scene haunted him.
"He changed after he went to Iraq the first time," recalled Ana Ochoa, one of his closest friends.
In 2007, he was deployed again with the 82nd Airborne Division, this time to Afghanistan. After his return, he transferred to the 101st Airborne Division and re-enlisted in the Army.
"I told him not to re-enlist; I told him to get out, his personality was changing. I told him, 'You are making me uncomfortable,'" recalled Ochoa. "After each deployment, he seemed to get needier, sadder, and he would be talking deeper."
While at Fort Campbell in 2008, he attempted suicide by swallowing a bottle of sleeping pills. The pills only knocked him out for two or three days, and when he awoke in his off-base apartment, he called friends, who urged him to get help.
SENFT, DAVID P
Posted: 22 November 2010 Updated: 31 December 2010 Updated: 1 January 2011 Updated: 22 March 2011
Photos By Eileen Horan, February 2011
Photos By Eileen Horan, December 2010