Chris J. Scherkenbach – Chief Warrant Officer, United States Army

NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense
No. 671-05
July 02, 2005
Media Contact: (703)697-5131
Public/Industry Contact: (703)428-0711

DoD Identifies Army and Navy Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of eight soldiers and eight sailors who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Soldiers killed were:

Sergeant Shamus O. Goare, 29, of Danville, Ohio
Chief Warrant Officer Corey J. Goodnature, 35, of Clarks Grove, Minnesota
Sergeant Kip A. Jacoby, 21, of Pompano Beach, Florida
Sergeant First Class Marcus V. Muralles, 33, of Shelbyville, Indiana
Master Sergeant James W. Ponder III, 36, of Franklin, Tennessee
Major Stephen C. Reich, 34, of Washington Depot, Connecticut
Sergeant First Class Michael L. Russell, 31, of Stafford, Virginia
Chief Warrant Officer Chris J. Scherkenbach, 40, of Jacksonville, Florida

All of these soldiers were assigned to the Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), Hunter Army Air Field, Georgia

Sailors killed were:

Chief Petty Officer Jacques J. Fontan, 36, of New Orleans, La.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Daniel R. Healy, 36, of Exeter, N.H.
Lt. Cmdr. Erik S. Kristensen, 33, of San Diego, Calif.
Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffery A. Lucas, 33, of Corbett, Ore.
Lt. Michael M. McGreevy, Jr., 30, of Portville, N.Y.
Petty Officer 2nd Class James Suh, 28, of Deerfield Beach, Fla.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric S. Patton, 22, of Boulder City, Nev.
Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffrey S. Taylor, 30, of Midway, W.Va.

Healy, Patton and Suh were assigned to SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team One, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Fontan, Kristensen, Lucas, McGreevy and Taylor were assigned to SEAL Team Ten, Virginia Beach, Virginia

All 16 were killed while conducting combat operations when the MH-47 helicopter that they were aboard crashed in the vicinity of Asadabad, Afghanistan in Kumar Province on June 28, 2005.

For further information related to the Army personnel listed in this release, contact Army Public Affairs at (703) 692-2000.

For further information related to the Navy personnel listed in this release, contact Naval Special Warfare Command Public Affairs at (619) 437-5133.

Des Plaines soldier dies in rescue
By Ashok Selvam
Courtesy of the Des Plaina (Illinois) Daily Herald
Posted Sunday, July 10, 2005

Des Plaines native Chief Warrant Officer Chris J. Scherkenbach will be buried later this month at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

“He felt very strongly that he was doing the right thing,” Lee Scherkenbach, his brother, said.

Serving in the U.S. Army, Chris Scherkenbach, 40, was part of an elite rescue mission consisting of eight soldiers and eight U.S. Navy SEALs deployed last month to save four SEALs captured or killed by Taliban forces in Afghanistan.

Members of the 16-member rescue team were killed June 28 after an enemy’s rocket-propelled grenade downed the MH-47D Chinook helicopter carrying them over the mountains in eastern Afghanistan.

One of the SEALs Scherkenbach and his crew were attempting to save has since been beheaded, a man claiming to speak for the Taliban said on Saturday.


Chris J. Scherkenbach

“This is very difficult for me,” Lee Scherkenbach said.

A 1982 graduate of Prospect Heights High School in Mount Prospect, Scherkenbach has since resided in Jacksonville, Fla., where he lived with his wife.

He was to have returned stateside in late July or August from serving in Operation Enduring Freedom, his brother said. Instead of welcoming him back, family members scattered in Arlington Heights, Crystal Lake and Gurnee, are coping with the death of a loved one.

“He and his wife were about to adopt a girl from China,” Lee Scherkenbach said. “That was in the works for quite a while.”

About 800 family members and soldiers mourned Scherkenbach and his fellow fallen soldiers at a service July 7 in Savannah, Ga. During the service, mourners learned Scherkenbach would bring his orange University of Florida baseball cap with him during deployments for good luck.

Building on a military career of more than 18 years, Scherkenbach served as a member of Company B, 3rd Battalion of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). He amassed honors including posthumously earning a Purple Heart, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal with Valor device, the Master Army Aviator Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Combat Action Badge.

Prior to joining the 160th, he piloted helicopters for the 159th Aviation Regiment, and eventually was stationed in Korea. He also graduated magna cum laude from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University at Daytona Beach, Fla. with a B.S. in Professional Aeronautics.

“He was very proud of being a helicopter pilot,” his brother said.

The 160th, based out of Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia, was part of an elite operation group nicknamed the Night Stalkers. The Night Stalkers formed after a failed attempt to rescue hostages in 1981 in Iran. The group, which has been deployed in most major military operations since its formation, has lost 21 soldiers since 2002.

“It is one of the most physically and mentally demanding assignments for Army aviators,” said 160th SOAR (A) Cmdr. Col. Kevin Mangum in a prepared statement. “We have tough, realistic training and routinely conduct hazardous missions under challenging conditions, both day and night and in all weather. We all know the risks.”

Scherkenbach rarely talked about himself, let alone mentioning details surrounding his missions, his brother said. He was a humble man, the youngest of seven, that called his two sisters and five brothers before each trip overseas.

“He was a class act and a very loyal family member,” Lee Scherkenbach said. “Every time he went overseas he would call his brothers and sisters and tell them that he loved them.”

When Scherkenbach’s mother and father, an ex-Air Force pilot, retired and moved from Mount Prospect to Florida, they brought their son with them. He enlisted in the Army in April 1987 as a communications specialist, and was initially stationed in Germany, according to the Army.

The family has no plans for a local service, Lee Scherkenbach added.

Chief Warrant Officer Scherkenbach was born on Nov. 3, 1964 in Des Plaines. He is survived by his wife, Michelle; his parents Elmer and Marjorie Scherkenbach; sisters Karen O’Brien and Cheryl McGrath; brothers Lee, Jed, Kurt, Craig and Jeff; and 14 nieces and nephews. Burial will be July 20 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

The family would appreciate donations in Chris’s name made to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, P.O. Box 14385, Tampa, FL 33690.

Prospect grad killed in Afghanistan

A graduate of Prospect High School was killed June 28, 2005, in the deadliest single attack on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, family members and military officials confirmed this week.

U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Chris Scherkenbach, 40, formerly of Mount Prospect, was one of 16 American military personnel who died when their MH-47D Chinook helicopter was shot down by an enemy rocket-propelled grenade as they flew over the mountains in eastern Afghanistan.

“Chris died doing what he loved,” family members said in a joint statement. “Chris was a strong man and had a firm sense of justice. He believed in his mission and stood up for what he knew was right.

Family members in Arlington Heights, Crystal Lake and Gurnee could not be reached for comment. The family's written statement asks reporters to “respect our privacy and allow us time to grieve for him” and expresses appreciation for the “outpouring of support and prayers that we have received from our friends and communities.”

The U.S. Army Special Operations Command released Scherkenbach's name July 1, but the soldier's ties to the northwest suburbs did not make headlines until this week after family members revealed more detailed biographical information. The Special Operations Command's Web site incorrectly lists Scherkenbach as “a native of Jacksonville, Florida.”

Scherkenbach was born in Des Plaines and raised in Mount Prospect, graduating from Prospect High School in 1982 before he moved to Jacksonville, Fla., and enlisted in the army as a communication specialist. He followed in the footsteps of his father, Elmer, who was a World War II bomber in the Army Air Forces.

When he enlisted, at age 17, Scherkenbach was stationed in Germany. Three years later, he enrolled in the Warrant Officer Program at Fort Rucker, Alabama. The following year, he received rotary wing training, and was qualified to be a pilot. He was assigned to be a helicopter pilot in Korea, where he toured before returning to the 159th Aviation Regiment. His final assignment during his 18 years of service was in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.

Scherkenbach was scheduled to return to the United States later this month or in early August after serving in Operation Enduring Freedom. He died while taking part in a rescue mission to save four Navy SEALs who had been captured by Taliban forces, military officials said. A purported spokesman for the Taliban has said that the missing SEAL has since been beheaded; but that report has not been confirmed by the U.S. military.

Scherkenbach leaves behind his wife, Michelle; his parents, Elmer and Marjorie Scherkenbach; his two sisters, Karen O'Brien and Cheryl McGrath; five brothers, Lee, Jed, Kurt, Craig and Jeff Scherkenbach; and 14 nieces and nephews.

Throughout his career, Scherkenbach was awarded numerous awards for his service, including the Air Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal and the National Defense Service Medal. After his death, he was given the Purple Heart and the Combat Action Badge.

“The entire regiment is deeply saddened by the loss,” said 160th SOAR Cmdr. Col. Kevin Mangum in a prepared statement. “We have tough, realistic training and routinely conduct hazardous missions under challenging conditions, both day and night and in all weather. We all know the risks.”

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, there have been 213 U.S. military casualties in and around Afghanistan since Operation Enduring Freedom began four years ago.

A memorial service for Scherkenbach will be held July 19 in Savannah, and he will be buried July 20, 2005, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Donations may be made in his name to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, P.O. Box 14385, Tampa, Florida 33690.


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