NEWS RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense
No. 028-06 IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DoD Identifies Army Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the death of eight soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died near Tal Afar, Iraq, on January 7, 2006, when their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed.
Major Stuart M. Anderson, 44, of Peosta, Iowa. Anderson was assigned to the Army Reserve's 3rd Corps Support Command, Des Moines, Iowa.
Major Douglas A. Labouff, 36, of California. Labouff was assigned to the Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Carson, Colorado
Captain Michael R. Martinez, 43, of Missouri. Martinez was assigned to the Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Carson, Colorado
First Lieutenant Jaime L. Campbell, 25, of Ephrata, Washington. Campbell was assigned to the Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment, Anchorage, Alaska.
First Lisutenant Joseph D. deMoors, 36, of Jefferson, Alabama. deMoors was assigned to the Army's 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Carson, Colorado
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Chester W. Troxel, 45, of Anchorage, Alaska. Troxel was assigned to the Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment, Anchorage, Alaska.
Specialist Michael I. Edwards, 26, of Fairbanks, Alaska. Edwards was assigned to the Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment, Anchorage, Alaska.
Specialist Jacob E. Melson, 22, of Wasilla, Alaska. Melson was assigned to the Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment, Anchorage, Alaska.
The incident is under investigation.
Former Fairbanks resident Chief Warrant Officer 4 Chester W. Troxel, 44, died on January 7, 2006, in a Black Hawk helicopter crash in northern Iraq.
Chester was born October 8, 1961, in Tujunga, California. He graduated from Tujunga High School in 1981 and went immediately into the Army. He met the love of his life, Sheree, in Fairbanks and they were married June 26, 1982.
Chester served four years in the active duty Army and more than 17 years in the Alaska Army National Guard. He was serving in the 207th Aviation Battalion, stationed in Iraq.
Before being mobilized for his deployment to Iraq, Mr. Troxel worked for Era Helicopters for more than 14 years. He loved flying, both fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft.
“He was a loving father to his children and a devoted husband to his wife,” his family said.
There will be a memorial service at the Alaska Army National Guard Armory on Fort Richardson and at the Anchorage Baptist Temple. Burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
He is survived by his wife Sheree, son Hollis, daughter Summer, all of Anchorage; mother Lois Alderson; sisters Sarah Troxel and Sylvia Gomez; and many friends who will miss him dearly.
A pilot and aircraft mechanic with a family and deep roots in Anchorage was among four Alaska Army National Guardsmen killed in a helicopter crash Saturday in Iraq.
Family and friends confirmed Monday that Chester Troxel, 44, was on the Black Hawk that went down for unknown reasons in a remote location in northern Iraq, killing all 12 people on board.
Troxel's wife of 23 years, Sheree, and the couple's two children, Hollis, 17, and Summer, 14, were at their South Anchorage home Monday, surrounded by friends and family.
Tom Cobaugh, who has known the family for about 15 years, said in a telephone interview from the Troxels' home that the kids were having a sleepover and that many other people had called the family or dropped by with cards, flowers and food.
Sheree described the outpouring as “tremendous” and said she and the kids were doing OK given what they were going through. She was not up to speaking further.
Military officials had not released any of the names of the people who died in the crash, but news of Troxel's death traveled quickly as his family and church notified people who knew him.
“His whole world revolved around his wife and his kids,” said longtime friend and neighbor Tom Blake, a retired Air National Guard pilot who met Troxel when they were flying Huey helicopters together in the late 1980s.
Blake said the last time he saw Troxel, he was jogging in their South Anchorage neighborhood.
“His wife is disabled, and when he ran, he would push her in a little sort of a bicycle with multiple wheels on it. They would just spend that time together,” Blake said, his voice tight and trailing off.
The Troxels have lived in Anchorage for 22 years. Sheree and her daughter both suffer from Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia, which affects the lower extremities, making it difficult for them to walk. Friends describe the family members as devoted to one another. When Hollis, a junior at Anchorage Christian School, came from behind to win the small-schools state cross-country running championship in October, he fought back tears.
“I run for everyone in my family,” he said then. “They are always in pain.”
Chester Troxel missed that race. Fifty-six members of his unit — Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment — had shipped out for Iraq the month before. Troxel volunteered to go on the mission, working overtime to rehabilitate from knee surgery to make sure he qualified, said Cobaugh, who is also in the Guard.
Cobaugh said Troxel believed in the U.S. mission in Iraq and was incredibly proud of his service.
“He was very strong, a very moral man,” Cobaugh said. “He loved his God, his country and his family. He was committed to all three of those.”
Days before shipping out Sept. 5, “Chester said to me, ‘If anything happens to me while I'm over there, I want you to take care of my family,' ” Cobaugh said. “I'm not the only one he said that to, I'm sure.”
Blake said it is hard to imagine that his friend is gone.
“I think the thing that makes you climb back in a helicopter is that all human beings are given the gift of feeling like it's not going to happen to them, that it's always going to happen to the other guys,” he said. “You just didn't think it would happen to a guy like (Troxel). He had a large amount of faith. He had a wonderful attitude. He is just one of those sort of all-American guys.”
The Anchorage Baptist Temple, where the Troxels have attended church for more than 15 years, notified its congregation of the death in an e-mail newsletter Monday.
“I want you to be praying for his wife Sheree and the children,” the Rev. Jerry Prevo wrote. “Please, do all you can to comfort her.”
Prevo said in an interview Monday that the church heard before the family had been notified that Troxel may have been on the downed chopper. He said the information came from other people serving in Iraq but that there was no way to immediately confirm it so no one shared it with the family.
“She came to church Sunday and knew absolutely nothing about it,” Prevo said somberly. He said the church sent members to accompany the military for the official notification.
“She found out Sunday afternoon around three o'clock,” he said. “She's taking it as well as can be expected.”
Cobaugh said he was with the family when they were notified. He said Sheree and Summer were at home when Brig. Gen. Craig Christensen, commander of the Army Guard in Alaska, came to the house to break the news.
“It was a difficult thing to go through,” Cobaugh said.
Troxel was a veteran pilot who'd also been trained as a mechanic, Blake said. “He knew his airplane better than most,” he said.
“We have no details (on the crash), but it sounds like it was a weather-related incident. Any one of 25 or 50 or just keep counting things could have brought that helicopter down.”
Troxel worked for Era Aviation for many years, working up to becoming director of maintenance. He was laid off last year during a downsizing, said Terry Bennett, vice president of the company's Alaska operations.
“He was just an absolute solid man,” said Bennett, who was hired around the same time as Troxel, in 1989, and knew his family.
“He's the guy who kept those aircraft flying day in and day out in all the conditions that we have in Alaska. He never let the operations needs of our company overrule the maintenance needs of the aircraft.”
While the names of the three other Alaskans who died in the crash had not been released, the impact of their deaths was evident Monday in town. By noon, a sign outside the Jewel Lake Tastee-Freez on Raspberry Road read, “Please pray for our 4 Army National Guard members lost in Iraq.”
The restaurant is popular with Guard members. In an interview Monday, owner Rich Owens said he heard late Sunday that Alaskans were among the casualties but didn't have names. He put up the sign after officials confirmed that news Monday.
“People were stopping when we were putting the sign up, asking if that was for sure,” he said.
A few minutes later, Owens' cell phone rang. It was a friend, calling to say that Troxel was among the dead. Owens snapped his cell phone closed, swallowed and fought back tears.
Remembering the fallen
The family of one of the soldiers killed in Sunday's Black Hawk helicopter crash expresses their sorrow and shares their memories with CBS 11 News.
Though they teared-up a number of times during the interview, the Melson family is very strong at this hour. You can imagine how daunting this time is for all the families: to now have the world know their loved one was killed in that crash. In this report, we want to focus on Specialist Jacob Melson: who he was and why he'll be missed.
I asked Jacob's sister, Rachel Melson: What are you guys going to miss the most about him?
“Knowing we can't see him when we want to. Opportunities are over. It's just going to be hard to get used to the thought,” said Rachel Melson.
It may not seem like it at first, but celebration is slowly overshadowing fear for Theresa Melson and her family. They're coping with sad news…while remembering happier times.
Specialist Jacob Melson married his wife Sara (a Navy recruit) in Hatcher's Pass three days before being deployed.
“It was a beautiful day. Very simple, out in nature, it was nice. Barefoot…Sarah was barefoot. White with a linen dress. He was in his uniform. She had the flower ring around her head. It was cute,” said Rachel Melson.
Theresa Melson shares with me rare glimpses of the young man, who will always be her little boy. She showed me a photograph where Jacob sits inside a Black Hawk helicopter during a military family day. He's described by his family as very smart, and very gentle: a kid at heart who loved computers and who found a sense of purpose in the military.
“He liked his job. He liked flying. I know he was proud. He was proud of it,” said Teresa Melson.
Specialist Jacob Melson was only 22-years-old. He was killed along with 11 other people when a Black Hawk helicopter crashed Saturday night near the Iraqi town of Tal Afar–a crash that hit the state of Alaska especially hard.
Brigadier General Craig Christensen, Alaska Army National Guard spoke about the tragedy:
“First Lieutenant Jamie Lynn Campbell. One of our female officers of Fairbanks.”
“Chief Warrant Officer Chester William Troxel of Anchorage.”
“Specialist Michael Ig Edwards of Anchorage.”
With flags at half-staff and names attributed to each soldier the tragedy has touched each of us, in very different ways.
“All of us in Alaska share in this. We're Alaskans, we're family; we're neighbors; we're friends,” said Christensen.
a unified state…that still has a lot of questions.
Families like the Melson's say this crash is still very much a mystery. They also say that even with all the answers, this process will always be painful.
“I know I have a friend who lost a son. And still, three years later she's still angry. I just know it's a process that we all go through,” said Teresa Melson.
The crash is still under investigation. The Army has created a special investigation team to look into the crash. As all of the families prepare for memorial services, we can tell you that Anchorage Baptist Temple is confirming that Chief Warrant Officer Chester Troxel will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. However, a memorial service will be here in Anchorage on January 21.
Of course, here at CBS 11 News, we will continue to keep you posted on other funeral arrangements and the latest updates on the crash investigation. Guard copter crew honored
FORWARD OPERATING BASE Q-WEST–The thumping of Black Hawk helicopter rotors was audible inside a theater here Thursday as aviators, Army soldiers and civilians gathered to honor a four-person crew killed in the crash of an Alaska Army National Guard helicopter.
The crew of the UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter, which went by the call sign ICY 33, and their eight passengers, died in a crash Saturday near Tal Afar in northern Iraq. The deaths were the first Alaska Army National Guard combat deaths since Word War II.
“The ICY 33 call sign is now officially retired,” Bravo company commander Captain Cheryl L. Anderson said.
The crew was part of the 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment deployed from Alaska in August and September. Forward Operating Base Q-West, south of Mosul, is the Iraq home of the battalion.
Guard units are tight-knit, with members living in the same area. The bond showed as somber and stoic aviators and others–some fighting back tears–remembered the ICY 33 crew in a memorial ceremony punctuated with stories of the soldiers' lighter moments and moments of heart-stirring remembrance and military tradition.
The crew was providing support for the 101st Airborne Division on a two-ship night mission when their helicopter crashed. A search team found the crash site around noon Sunday. The cause is still being investigated.
Four pairs of boots, four rifles and four aviator helmets were accompanied in a display in front of the theater by photos of each crew member: First Lieutenant Jaime Campbell of Fort Wainwright Army Post, Chief Warrant Officer Chester Troxel of Anchorage, Specialist Michael Ignatius Edwards of Anchorage and Spc. Jacob Eugene Melson of Wasilla.
Four flags stood behind the display, the Stars and Stripes, the Alaska state flag, battalion colors and the guidon colors for the 1-207th.
“The night of Jan. 7 will not be forgotten,” Anderson said. “We suffered a great loss when the crew of ICY 33 didn't come home.”
Several aviators from the 1-207th spoke about each member of the crew.
Former Fairbanks resident Troxel, 44, lived in Anchorage with his wife, Sheree, son, Hollis, and daughter, Summer. He was described as an avid aviator. He attained his private pilot's license in 1980 and was the director of maintenance for Era Helicopters in Anchorage before deploying to Iraq.
“Chief Warrant Officer Troxel was a professional pilot, bar none,” said Lieutenant Colonel Douglas Ziemer, task force commander of the 1-10 Aviation Regiment.
Chief Warrant Officer Charles Hosack described Troxel as a dedicated family man, married for 23 years. Hosack said despite a knee injury that likely would have kept Troxel from deploying, he went to great lengths to recuperate quickly so he could leave with his unit.
“And he had a strong if somewhat inaccurate right arm,” Hosack said with a smile. “We all remember as a water bottle flew across the room to wake a sleeping soldier. He wanted everyone to be included.”
Campbell, 25, was born in Olympia, Washington. She lived in Fairbanks with her husband, Captain Samuel Campbell, who is also in Iraq with the 562nd Engineer Company attached to the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. They were both deployed to Iraq last year but stationed at different bases in Mosul.
Chief Warrant Officer Scott Frickson remembered Campbell for her smile and special love for her husband.
“What touched my heart and made me a better person was listening to her tell stories of her husband, Sam,” he said. “When she had a bad day or if I had a bad day, I could always change the topic to Sam and the world was a beautiful place. I called it her Sammy place.”
Frickson held up a picture of the couple, both smiling brightly, at home in Fairbanks. They were married three years ago. On Thursday, Sam Campbell was en route to Washington, accompanying his wife's body home for a funeral.
“If I wasn't quite a believer in true love, I certainly am today,” Frickson said.
Edwards, 26, was born on the Caribbean island of Antigua, lived in Anchorage with his fiancée and daughter, Destiny Nicole. He also has a son, Elijah, who lives in Fairbanks.
Spcecialist Donald Chapman remembered Edwards as his best friend, a man who loved his job and had recently re-enlisted. Edwards first joined the Alaska Army National Guard in 1997. Edwards said Chapman took pride in his work and the Black Hawk for which he was crew chief.
“I remember once he told me he Armor-All'ed the cockpit,” Chapman said with a hint of a laugh.
Melson, 22, was born in Anchorage and lived in Wasilla. He attended the Alaska Military Youth Academy and joined the Alaska Army National Guard in 2002. He married his wife, Sarah, just weeks before deploying to Iraq in the fall.
Sgt. John Smith remembered Melson for his Alaska roots, shy smile and genuine heart.
“Jake was the guy who walked the walk,” he said.
He said Melson enjoyed snowboarding, skateboarding, riding his BMX and a variety of other sports. He often helped fellow aviators and soldiers with their computer problems.
“But above all, he was a devoted soldier,” Smith said. “He loved being Jake–unabashed, unafraid and undaunted by the problems of life. Jake was taken too soon from us and leaves a lot of questions. But we can find a lot of answers in his life.”
A silent tribute was also held for the eight passengers who perished in the flight: Major Douglas Labouff, Major Stuart Anderson, Captain Michael Martinez, First Lieutenants Joseph Demoors, Arsenio Domengo, Robert Timmann, Darren Braswell and Charles Allen.
The service concluded with traditional rituals, including the firing of volleys. The doors to the theater were opened to reveal an eight-member honor guard that sent three shots into the air.
Afterward, the slow call of taps echoed though the high-ceilinged theater from outside.
Several representatives from other units and battalions placed coins or medals near the fallen soldiers' boots and photos. The items, along with a videotape of the services, will be placed in a special box and sent the soldiers' families.
Before the crowd was dismissed, aviators from the 1-207th walked forward individually to the memorial display. They took a moment and saluted before walking down the center aisle–many fighting back tears or with stony expressions–to join their comrades in the back of the theater.
Along with the retirement of the ICY 33 call sign, each crew member's name was dropped from the rolls in a traditional reading of the roll call. First Sgt. Michael Jones called out the roll, pausing at each of the fallen crew-member's names when not answered. He repeated each name three times as the audience stood rigid, faces forward, in profound silence.
“Chief Warrant Officer Troxel,” Jones called across the theater.
“Chief Warrant Officer Chester Troxel,” he called again.
“Chief Warrant Officer Chester William Troxel,” he pronounced loud and clear, enunciating each word.
Mourners Remember a Life of Service
26-Year Soldier Buried at Arlington
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Chester W. Troxel spent more than half of his life in the military, serving 26 years in the Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard.
The helicopter pilot's decades of service ended January 7, 2006, when his UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed during a night operation near Tall Afar, Iraq, killing all 12 aboard. The cause of the crash, which occurred during bad weather, remains under investigation.
Troxel, 45, of Anchorage, was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal and the Alaska Distinguished Service Medal.
Yesterday, dozens of friends and family members gathered to pay their respects as Troxel was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. He was the 219th person killed in the Iraq war to be buried at Arlington.
After a memorial at the Old Post Chapel, mourners followed a military band and horse-drawn caisson carrying Troxel's flag-draped coffin to its final resting place. He is survived by his wife of 23 years, Sheree; two children, Hollis and Summer; his mother, Lois Alderson; and two sisters, Sarah Troxel and Sylvia Gomez.
Troxel was born in Tujunga, California, and graduated from Verdugo Hills High School in Los Angeles. He trained as a mechanic before learning how to fly a helicopter. His unit was deployed to Iraq in early September.
Previously, Troxel worked for more than a decade at Era Aviation, a regional Alaskan carrier. During that time, he often stopped in for lunch at Jewel Lake Tastee-Freez in Anchorage, near the company's headquarters.
“He always seemed like he was in a good mood,” recalled Tastee-Freez owner Rich Owens, who said news of Troxel's death had deeply affected his friends and former co-workers. “He's one of those people you know is always going to be warm and always have something nice to say.”
Owens said Troxel was dedicated to his family. “That was his purpose in life: family and service,” Owens said. “He was the genuine thing.”
Also killed in the crash were Major Stuart M. Anderson, 44, of Peosta, Iowa; Major Douglas A. Labouff, 36, of California; Captain Michael R. Martinez, 43, of Missouri; First Lieutenant Jaime L. Campbell, 25, of Ephrata, Washington; First Lietuenant Joseph D. deMoors, 36, of Jefferson, Alabama; Specialist Michael I. Edwards, 26, of Fairbanks, Alaska; Specialist Jacob E. Melson, 22, of Wasilla, Alaska; and four civilians.
Troxel, Campbell, Edwards and Melson were assigned to the Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment, based in Anchorage. The four are the Alaska Army National Guard's first combat deaths since World War II. Alaska Governor Frank H. Murkowski (R) ordered state flags to be flown at half-staff in their honor for a week earlier this month.
Major Mike Haller, an Alaska National Guard spokesman, had known Troxel for more than a decade and flew aboard Black Hawk helicopters with him en route to such natural disasters as floods, fires and avalanches. Haller said that Troxel's knowledge of the aircraft was unsurpassed and that he was able to articulate its inner workings to expert and novice alike.
“It was something he loved to share with you, whether you were a pilot or passenger,” Haller said. “After all his years in aviation, he still had the excitement and joy of flying in his heart.”
Haller said it was remarkable how Troxel managed to keep his sense of humor and soft-spoken manner, even in tense situations.
“This guy was an absolutely steady hand in his attitude,” Haller said. “Strong and competent but always humble. He was one of the best people you would want to represent the Guard.”
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard