Sharon T. Swartworth
Chief Warrant Officer 5, United States Army
Nov 09, 2003
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter was shot down Nov. 7, 2003, in Tikrit, Iraq. The Black Hawk was shot down by unknown enemy ordnance. Among those killed was:
Chief Warrant Officer (CW5) Sharon T. Swartworth [female], 43, of Virginia. Swartworth was the regimental warrant officer for the Judge Advocate General Office, based at Headquarters Department of the Army, Pentagon.
A Sea of Uniforms and Tears
At Arlington, JAG Officer and Military Strategist Are Praised for Dedication
Courtesy of the Washington Post
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
One of the highest-ranking casualties of the Iraq war, Lieutenant Colonel Charles H. "Chad" Buehring, was buried at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday, in a somber conclusion to the October 26, 2003, rocket attack on the al-Rashid Hotel in Baghdad.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, who had been staying at the hotel at the time of the attack, attended the ceremony.
About two hours later, Chief Warrant Officer Sharon T. Swartworth, a high-ranking official from the Army Judge Advocate General's Corps, also was laid to rest, becoming the 38th casualty of the Iraq war to be buried at Arlington. The Black Hawk helicopter in which she had been a passenger was shot down November 7, 2003, near Tikrit.
Hundreds of mourners attended the ceremonies.
Buehring, 40, of Winter Springs, Florida, had been serving as a special adviser to the top U.S. civilian administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer. He was married and the father of two boys, Nick, 12, and Drew, 9.
"He was one of our best and brightest unconventional strategists," Lieutenant Colonel James "Bo" Merchant, Buehring's commanding officer and Citadel classmate, said in an interview last week. "He fully believed in what we were doing in Iraq. He felt that the harder he worked, the sooner life would be better for the Iraqi people."
Buehring pursued the military's physical and intellectual challenges, working in Special Forces and psychological operations, Merchant said. In addition to his service in Iraq, he had experience in Bosnia and in Somalia as "an A-team leader."
In Iraq, Buehring worked to prevent the destruction of oil fields in the south. He also worked with the Iraqi media to publicize the coalition's efforts to improve the quality of life in Iraq, Merchant said.
"He was the epitome of the Special Forces warrior," Merchant said. "The complete package."
Buehring, a longtime resident of Fayetteville, North Carolina, had recently moved with his family to his boyhood home in Winter Springs. Memorial services have been held in both communities.
Friends noted that in addition to his military duties, he was dedicated to the Boy Scouts and his church. His pastor in Fayetteville, the Rev. Ben West, remembered him in church typically sporting a Looney Tunes tie and wrapping an arm around his wife.
"His job would often take him away," West said in an interview. "I'm not sure where. Down here, you learn not to ask."
Former classmates and teachers remembered a lanky cross-country runner with high ambitions. "He loved his country and always wanted to save the world from oppression," said Carol Denicole, Buehring's math teacher at Trinity Preparatory School in the Orlando area. "His personal motto was, 'The sky's the limit.' "
Reflecting a shift in policy, cemetery officials kept reporters out of earshot of the graveside services.
At Swartworth's funeral, a sea of dark green Army uniforms surrounded the graveside and flowed down the cemetery's long road. Men and women in dark dress Navy uniforms peppered the crowd as well; Swartworth's husband, William, is a Navy Captain stationed in Hawaii. Near him stood the couple's 8-year-old son, William III. Swartworth was posthumously given the Distinguished Service Medal during the ceremony.
Swartworth, 43, was the JAG Corps' top warrant officer. She was killed along with Command Sergeant Major Cornell W. Gilmore, the corps' top enlisted man, while visiting some of the 400 JAG Corps soldiers stationed in Iraq. Four members of the 101st Airborne Division also were killed in the crash.
Swartworth and Gilmore had traveled the world on similar trips with Major General Thomas J. Romig, the judge advocate general, guiding and boosting the morale of the soldiers responsible for administering military justice.
"She loved getting out with soldiers in the field," Romig said before the ceremony. "It's mandated by law that we do these visits, but she always wanted to be there."
Swartworth lived in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County for a decade before her family's recent move to Hawaii. She was keeping an Arlington apartment so she could continue with her job at the Pentagon. Her father said she planned to retire from the Army soon and rejoin civilian life.
A 26-year veteran of the Army, Swartworth rose steadily through its ranks. She enlisted after high school and later was chosen to become a warrant officer, which put her in a special class of soldiers between enlisted personnel and commissioned officers.
In 1999, she became the corps' top warrant officer, overseeing the efforts of dozens of legal administrators in offices around the world. Romig said her long career was an inspiration to soldiers, especially young women.
"She was an example of a person who had pulled herself up by her bootstraps and made herself a success," he said.
Romig said he will keep a picture of Swartworth taken in Baghdad, standing all of 5 feet 2 inches tall, staring up at burly soldier during his reenlistment ceremony.
"She's standing next to this giant of a guy," he said. "Sharon's looking at him, and they're both just beaming."
Colleagues stressed Swartworth's professionalism in modernizing JAG offices around the world. She brought computer automation to far-flung legal offices and helped the corps' warrant officers join civilian associations for legal administrators.
She pulled JAG administration into the computer age with the same dogged determination that she applied to long-distance running, a favorite hobby, said Jose Robertson, who served with Swartworth for more than a dozen years and now works with the JAG Corps as a civilian.
"She was a soldier. That's the most important
thing," he said. "This was a skilled administrator, a skilled people person,
but most importantly, she was a soldier."
After spending 26 years in the Army, Sharon T. Swartworth was ready to retire.
She had sold her Fairfax County home and moved with her family to Hawaii, where her Navy officer husband had a new posting. But Swartworth, 43, a chief warrant officer in the Army Judge Advocate General's Corps, had one more assignment -- a trip to Iraq.
Friday, she died along with five other soldiers when the Black Hawk in which she was a passenger was shot down near Tikrit.
"This was going to be Sharon's last hurrah," said her father, Bernard C. Mayo, from his home in Litchfield, Maine. "They were going to live happily ever after."
Mayo said that he did not know what his daughter, who had been in Iraq for only a few days, was doing there. A lead adviser to the Army's judge advocate general, she specialized in administration.
A longtime friend who was her next-door neighbor in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County said part of the trip involved awarding medals. Morale-boosting and "rallying the troops" were among her responsibilities, Frances Sankey said.
Swartworth, who was adept with computers, also was director of operations for legal technology for the JAG Corps, which runs the Army's military justice system. Swartworth was one of two Pentagon officials killed Friday on the UH-60 Black Hawk that went down near the Tigris River. An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the crash.
Old neighbors said that during a decade here, Swartworth was a focus of a close-knit community, organizing progressive dinners for her cul-de-sac, parties on her deck and Christmas ornament and cookie exchanges.
"She was a very generous person, with her time and with her home," said friend and neighbor Eileen Houser.
Houser said Swartworth was thrilled eight years ago by the birth of her son, William III, and often walked around the neighborhood with him. Friends fondly recalled her 40th birthday celebration, a surprise party organized by her husband, William, a Navy captain and physician. As a present -- and to maintain surprise -- he had taken her to a spa for a day.
"She came home all primped and powdered, and her house was full of people," said neighbor Catherine Larson, 50. "That's the kind of people they were."
Saturday, the day after the crash, would have been the 44th birthday for Swartworth, a Rhode Island native who enlisted right after high school, her father said.
Her height, given as 5 feet 2, was deceiving, Sankey said, describing Swartworth as both "pretty and pretty tough," a positive, outgoing woman who was sweet and soft-spoken and smart and strong.
Athletic and an avid runner, she participated last month in the Army 10-Miler road race, and it appeared that she "knew everybody at the Pentagon," Sankey said. Although the family had moved to Hawaii, Swartworth kept an apartment near the Pentagon.
"She really loved the Army," Sankey said, taking to it, according to her father, like a "duck in water."
The Army gave her opportunities for travel and advancement. She had parachuted from airplanes and was a good sharpshooter and "a dedicated soldier," her father said.
Swartworth told friends and family that she felt she had narrowly escaped the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the Pentagon. She had moved her office shortly before and the incoming plane hit her old office directly. "She told me the nose of the plane was in her office," Mayo said.
Afterward, she helped the families of those killed that day -- and neighbors tried to help her, Houser said.
"That hit her very hard," she said. "All of us in the neighborhood spent a lot of time listening to her and helping her through that."
Swartworth told her family that if anything happened to her in Iraq, she wanted to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Mayo said she had visited family in Rhode Island recently, before leaving for Iraq.
"As she was walking out the door," her father said, "she turned to her brother and said, 'If I don't make it back, you'll have a nice service to go to at Arlington.'"
Providence, Rhode Island) -- "She was brave all her life." Teresa Holmes' voice, filled with pride and weak with grief is talking about her granddaughter, Chief Warrant Officer Sharon Swartworth.
Swartworth was killed Friday, November 7, 2003, when the Black Hawk helicopter she was traveling in crashed near Tikrit in Iraq. Military officials believe the aircrafty was shot down by enemy forces. The family learned of the loss through swartworth's 8 year old son. "He says to his grandfather 'mommy's dead.' What a thing to say," Holmes said.
Swartworth was a JAG officer in the army. Her husband, Captain William Swartworth of the U.S. Navy, is an occupational health physician at navy clinics here in Hawaii. According to Rhode Island TV station WJAR, Sharon Swartworth planned to retire in Hawaii, and her husband and son moved here first.
This was not the first time tragedy struck
this soldier. Swartworth was in temporary quarters when the highjacked
jet that hit the Pentagon during the 9-11 attacks, destroyed the office
that she normally worked out of. Swartworth died 2 days before her 44th
Two Army JAG Officials Among Iraq Victims
Two officials of the Army's Judge Advocate General corps from the Pentagon were among six soldiers killed in the crash of a Black Hawk helicopter in Iraq on Friday, the Defense Department announced.
Army officials said Monday they still had not determined whether the helicopter that crashed near Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit was downed by a mechanical problem or by a rocket-propelled grenade.
All six soldiers aboard the helicopter were killed. They included two officials of the Army's JAG corps, which provides judges and lawyers for the Army's military courts. They were identified as Command Sergeant Major Cornell W. Gilmore, 45, of Stafford, Virginia, and Chief Warrant Officer 5 Sharon T. Swartworth, 43, of Virginia.
The helicopter's four-member crew from the 101st Airborne Division also was killed: Captain Benedict J. Smith, 29, of Monroe City, Missouri; Chief Warrant Officer 3 Kyran E. Kennedy, 43, of Boston; Staff Sergeant Paul M. Neff II, 30, of Fort Mill, South Charolina; and Sergeant Scott C. Rose, 30, of Fayetteville, North Carolina.
The Washington Post quoted friends and relatives of Swartworth as saying the 26-year Army veteran was planning to retire shortly after her trip to Iraq. Her father said that Saturday, the day after the crash, would have been Swartworth's 44th birthday. The Pentagon did not list a hometown for her, but the Post reported that Swartworth had recently moved her family to Hawaii from the Virginia suburbs of Washington.
Her father, Bernard C. Mayo, told the Post
his daughter felt lucky to survive the September 11, 2001, attack on the
Pentagon. Mayo said his daughter had moved out of an office that was destroyed
by the hijacked airliner shortly before the attack.
A soldier whose husband and son were waiting for her in Mililani, Hawaii, died in a helicopter crash Friday in Iraq.
It's not clear to her family exactly why Chief Warrant Officer Sharon Swartworth was in Iraq. She was assigned to the Army legal corps in the Pentagon and left there on short notice, about 10 days ago.
Swartworth was aboard an Army Blackhawk helicopter shot down Friday by missiles near Tikrit. All six on board were killed.
Swartworth was an expert in military law and computers, rising high in the enlisted ranks and in the esteem of Army leaders.
"To see your daughter standing up there with generals and have them tell you how good she was" Swartworth's father, Bernard Mayo, said.
Swartworth had not spent much time in Hawaii, but she was planning to live out her dreams in Hawaii. She and her husband sold two properties in Virginia in order to buy a ridgeline home in Mililani. Her husband is a navy doctor assigned to Pearl Harbor. She planned to retire here.
Swartworth's son, William Swartworth III, 8, and her husband, Bill, moved to Oahu two months ago. She was to join them in January.
"It just sounded great. They were all excited about it and it was it was just all shot down," Mayo said.
Swartworth's father said he's not sure what his daughter was doing in Iraq. Her friends said she was there to help give out medals for valor a mission meant to boost morale.
Swartworth's husband and son went to Virginia.
Swartworth will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Of Mililani, Hawaii, formerly of Alexandria, Virginia, on November 7, 2003 in Iraq.
Beloved wife of Captain William J. Swartworth, Sr.; mother of William J. Swartworth, Jr.; daughter of Bernard Mayo; sister of Bryan Mayo; granddaughter, Terese Holmes.
Friends may call 2 to 5 p.m., Saturday, November 15 at the MURPHY FUNERAL HOME OF ARLINGTON, 4510 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Virginia.
Mass of Christian Burial will be offered 12 Noon, Monday, November 17, Good Shepherd Catholic Church, 8710 Mt. Vernon Hwy., Alexandria, Virginia.
Interment following 3 p.m., Arlington National Cemetery with Full Military Honors.
Posted: 12 November 2003 - Updated: 14 November 2003 Updated: 17 November 2003 Updated: 18 November 2003 Updated: 5 May 2004 Updated: 8 April 2005 Updated: 21 August 2005
Updated: 24 March 2007 Updated: 14 May 2008
Photo By Michael Robert Patterson, May 2008
Photo By M. R. Patterson, 22 April 2004