Hershel Daniel McCants Jr.
Chief Warrant Officer, United States Army
RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense
No. 199-07 IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 20, 2007
Media Contact: (703) 697-5131/697-5132
DoD Identifies Army Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the death of seven soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.They died February 18, 2007, in southeastern Afghanistan when the Chinook helicopter they were in crashed.The incident is under investigation.
Chief Warrant Officer Hershel D. McCants Jr., 33, of Arizona. McCants was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), Fort Campbell, Kentucky
Chief Warrant Officer John A. Quinlan, 36, of New Jersey.Quinlan was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), Fort Campbell, Kentucky
Sergeant Adam A. Wilkinson, 23, of Fort Carson, Colorado.Wilkinson was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), Fort Campbell, Kentucky
Specialist Travis R. Vaughn, 26, of Reinbeck, Iowa.Vaughn was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), Fort Campbell, Kentucky
Specialist Brandon D. Gordon, 21, of Naples, Florida (Gordon was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), Fort Campbell, Kentucky
Private First Class Ryan C. Garbs, 20, of Edwardsville, Illinois.Garbs was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Georgia
Pivate First Class Kristofer D. S. Thomas, 18, of Roseville, California.Thomas was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Georgia
For more information in regard to this release
the media can contact the U.S. Army Special Operations Command public affairs
office at (910) 432-6005.
The Department of Defense has identified the eight special operations forces soldiers — including a co-pilot born in Medford, Oregon — who died in a Chinook helicopter crash in Afghanistan Sunday.
Medford, Oregon, native Army Chief Warrant Officer Hershel Daniel McCants Jr., 33, Specialist Brandon D. Gordon, 21, of Naples, Florida, Chief Warrant Officer John A. Quinlan, 36, of New Jersey, Specialist Travis R. Vaughn, 26, of Reinbeck, Iowa, and Sergeant Adam A. Wilkinson, 23, of Fort Carson Colorado, were all members of the Special Operations Aviation Regiment based in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The unit is known as the "Night Stalkers."
A private military memorial service reportedly was held at the base Wednesday.
Also killed were Army Rangers Private First Class Ryan C. Garbs, 20, of Edwardsville, Illinois, and Private First Class Kristofer D. Thomas, 18, of Roseville, California, along with Air Force Technical Sergeant Scott Duffman, 32, of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
"The aircraft was crewed by an exceptionally qualified team of professionals and was flying in a formation of other aircraft in performance of this mission," said Colonel Kevin W. Mangum, commander of the Fort Campbell regiment, in a statement released late Tuesday.
The Department of Defense described the mission as a transport trip in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The Associated Press reported that the Chinook helicopter, which had 22 U.S. military personnel on board, reported an unexplained loss of power shortly before it plunged to the ground in Zabul province, which lies between the Afghan capital, Kabul, and the southern city of Kandahar. Fourteen others were injured in the crash, some seriously, reports said.
Members of McCants' family, which has deep roots in Southern Oregon, were confident that the man they knew as Danny or J.R. would have done whatever he could to protect his fellow soldiers, said his aunt, Sandy Finneran of North Bend.
Scott Nowicki, who served with McCants in an Army medical unit in Fort Lewis, Washington, sent an e-mail to the Mail Tribune praising McCants' skill and professionalism as a pilot during training missions and rescue operations.
He recalled an early morning mission to pick up two lost hikers who were stranded on a steep mountainside in the dark. The crew lowered one member of the team more than 200 feet down on a cable to collect the hikers and fly them to a parking lot, where their concerned families waited.
"Dan was rock steady and the aircraft hovered as if it were sitting on solid ground," Nowicki wrote, describing McCants as "a true 'Special Operations' quality pilot."
McCants was born in Medford April 2, 1973, and moved from the area as a toddler. Media reports said he attended middle and high school in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but didn't graduate.
Finneran, a school volunteer in North Bend, said she often held him up as an example to students, especially teenage boys, who didn't like school. His experience showed that people willing to work hard can succeed once they find their passion, she explained.
McCants joined the Army in Phoenix, Arizona, as a combat engineer in October 1991. His family said he excelled in basic training. His official biography provided by the Army said he attended a Special Forces Engineer Course. Upon graduation, and was assigned to the 1st Special Forces Group in Fort Lewis, Washington. He attended the Army's warrant officer program in 2000 and the following year attended an aviation course and took rotary wing training.
He qualified as a BlackHawk helicopter pilot and served with a medical unit at Fort Lewis until he was accepted to serve in the Special Operations Aviation Regiment based in Fort Campbell in 2005.
"He claimed he just wasn't a 'sit down' sort of student, but he loved to learn no less," his cousin Angela Finneran, an English major at Southern Oregon University, wrote in an e-mail to the Mail Tribune.
"I really saw him as the model older brother to me. He embodied honor, hard work, compassion and strength. But he always made time for humor," she wrote.
McCants is survived by his wife, Shannon, 11-year-old son, Trevor, and 11-month-old daughter, Kylie, all of Fort Campbell, the military reported. McCants' mother, Goldie Murphy, and father, Hershel D. McCants, Sr., also survive.
Shannon McCants, in a family statement released by the Army, noted that her husband was a dedicated soldier who loved being part of the Special Forces.
"Dan was a professional in everything he undertook and was proud of his unit and the soldiers with whom he served," she said in the statement. "Dan would want to be remembered as a soldier who loved his country and served America's finest."
The family requests memorial donations be made
to Special Operations Warrior Foundation, P.O. Box 13483, Tampa, Florida
33681-3483 or online at www.specialops.org. The foundation provides college
assistance to children of special operations forces who die in the line
Comrade Recalls Flier as 'Rock-Steady'
Pilot Who Flew With Famed Night Stalkers Unit Is Killed in Afghanistan Crash
By Leef Smith
Courtesy of the Washington Post
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
If Hershel McCants Jr. had a passion, it was flying with his fellow Night Stalkers, a Special Operations aviation regiment based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, that specializes in low-level night flying in combat and rescue missions.
McCants, 33, an Oregon native, was on a transport mission, co-piloting a twin-rotor Chinook helicopter February 18, 2007, when the aircraft went down in southeastern Afghanistan. Five Night Stalkers, including McCants, and three other special operations personnel were killed in the crash, which military officials have blamed on the aircraft's "sudden, unexplained" loss of power.
Fourteen others were wounded in the crash, which left wreckage scattered across an open plain in Zabul province, just 50 yards from the main Kabul-Kandahar highway. Although the crash was not believed to have been caused by hostile action, it was the single deadliest incident this year for the 47,000 troops who make up the U.S.-led coalition and NATO forces in Afghanistan, according to news reports.
Yesterday, McCants's friends and family gathered at Arlington National Cemetery to honor the fallen flier, watching silently as a horse-drawn caisson delivered the chief warrant officer's flag-draped coffin to the grave site.
McCants was flying a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom when the accident occurred. In tribute, four Blackhawk helicopters -- flying low and in formation -- buzzed across the cemetery as weeping mourners looked skyward.
Minutes later, members of the U.S. Army Band played "America the Beautiful" as a team of soldiers crispy folded the American flag lying atop McCants's coffin and presented it and two other banners to McCants's wife, mother and father.
McCants was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). The unit worked largely in support of Army Special Operations forces.
According to the Arizona Republic, McCants made a life in the Army, joining up before he had finished high school in Phoenix. While McCants never excelled in his studies, he achieved excellence in the military, where he served as an engineer, medic, pilot and a Green Beret, family said.
Known to those closest to him as "J.R." or "Dan," McCants tried to quiet family members' fears by explaining that regardless of the risks inherent in his missions, he was doing important work.
"If I don't make it back, know that I was doing what I love," his aunt Sandy Finneran told southern Oregon's Mail Tribune. "It's my job."
Scott Nowicki, who served with McCants in an Army medical unit at Fort Lewis, Washington, sent an e-mail to the Mail Tribune last month praising McCants's skill and professionalism as a pilot during training missions and rescue operations.
Nowicki described a mission to rescue two hikers who were stranded on a steep mountainside in the dark. The crew lowered one member of the team more than 200 feet down a cable to collect the hikers and fly them to a parking lot, the newspaper reported.
"Dan was rock steady and the aircraft hovered as if it were sitting on solid ground," Nowicki wrote, hailing McCants as "a true Special Operations quality pilot."
Shortly after his death, McCants's wife, Shannon, released a statement describing her husband as a loving father to two young children -- Trevor, 11, and Kylie, 11 months -- and a dedicated soldier.
"Dan was a professional in everything he undertook
and was proud of his unit and the soldiers with whom he served," read the
statement. "Dan would want to be remembered as a soldier who loved his
country and served America's finest."
'Night Stalker' mom on a mission
'Night Stalker' mom on mission to help heal
By Ed Montini, Courtesy of the Arizona Republic
October 28, 2007
Goldie Murphy doesn't quit. It's a trait she picked up from her son, Chief Warrant Officer Hershel Daniel McCants Jr., a Special Operations pilot who became the 97th member of the military with Arizona connections to die in Iraq or Afghanistan.
It happened when the Chinook helicopter that McCants was co-piloting crashed in Zabol province on February 18, 2007.
Goldie first tried to reach me a month ago,
after she decided that I needed to write an article about mothers who have
lost soldiers. Other news events kept us from getting together, but she
was undeterred. When we finally spoke last week she said, "I'm a Night
Stalker mom. We don't quit."
"The Arizona chapter has been inactive since 1959," Goldie said. "After my son died I went looking for help. And I found a great counselor at the VA (Veterans Administration). But I know that there are a lot of mothers like me, well over 100 in Arizona alone, who could benefit from getting together and sharing their experiences. I can put that together. But for it to happen, I need a little exposure. That means you."
Goldie's son, who was known to people as Dan or J.R., attended Thunderbird High School. He dropped out after his junior year to join the military.
"When he was 7 years old, I took him to Luke Air Force Base and he sat in a helicopter, and that was it," she recalled. "From that day forward all that he wanted was to be a pilot."
McCants got the high school and college credits he needed to become an officer. He flew a Blackhawk in Iraq and then a Chinook with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, whose motto is: "Night Stalkers Don't Quit."
The unit is known for flying low-level combat and rescue missions, among the most dangerous in the military. McCants was 33 years old, married and had two children.
"You try to prepare yourself for the worst, but there is nothing that compares to when it actually happens," Goldie said. "People tell you, 'You have got to move on.' But you don't. You can't. It's your child. I look at my son's picture and I start crying. I expect him to start talking to me. It's been seven months now. It's about the time that he should be coming home. One of the ways that I'm working through it is to try to establish the Gold Star chapter. Privacy issues keep the military from releasing information on other families, so I need someone like you to let other moms know that I'm out here."
Goldie can be reached at 602-809-8265 or on the Internet at nightstalkermom4ever @yahoo.com.
Her son is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, so Goldie doesn't get to visit his grave that often. She wants to put banners honoring each Arizona resident lost in the war on light poles in one of our public parks. There's an organization called American Heroes Tribute that has done so in other cities. It produces 3- by 9-foot banners for each soldier, featuring a photograph and personal information.
"If I could convince the mayor and the governor and others to work with me, we could have such a thing here," Goldie said. "And I could visit my son anytime I want. People these days go about their daily lives and don't spend a second thinking about those young men and women in the war. I plan to try my best to make sure that they're properly remembered."
Until that happens, Goldie Murphy won't quit. It's a trait she picked up from her son.
Or maybe it was the other way around.
Photo Courtesy of Holly: April 2007
Photo Courtesy of Holly, March 2007