Samuel George Rhea – Captain, United States Army

From a contemporary press report

Captain Samuel George Rhea Member, Special Forces (Airborne), 31, died August 6, 1997 when his private aircraft crashed at Los Padres National Forest, California.

Captain Rhea was a member of Alpha Team, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Campbell, Kentucky, when he was selected as a Foreign Area Officer with a regional concentration of the Middle East and North Africa in 1994.

On March 25, 1997, he was assigned as a student with Delta Company, 229th Military Intelligence Battalion, Presidio of Monterey, California. His next post was to be Amman, Jordan.

He served as a cavalry platoon leader and platoon leader, Bravo Troop, 3d Squadron, 12th Cavalry Regiment; executive officer, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 4th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 3d Armored Division, Buedingen, Germany; executive officer, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 4th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 3d Armored Division, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia; assistant S4, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Aviation Brigade, Hanau, Germany; detachment commander, Alpha Team, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

His military education includes: the Armor Officer Basic Course, Airborne School, Ranger School, Scout Platoon Leader Course, Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle Commander Course, Armor Officer Advance Course, Special Forces Qualification Course, Arabic-Egyptian Language Course, Special Warfare Training Center, Jumpmaster School and Combined Arms and Service Staff School.

His awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Saudi Arabia Kuwait Liberation Medal, Kuwait Liberation Medal, Ranger Tab, Senior Parachutist Badge and Special Forces Tab.

He is survived by his wife, Michelle; parents, John and Maureen; and three sisters, Christine, Nancie and Patricia.

Burial was held August 21 at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.


On August 7, 1997, at approximately 2000 hours Pacific daylight time, a Grumman American AA-5, N6086L, was destroyed when it impacted mountainous terrain approximately 18 miles southeast of Monterey, California. The pilot and one passenger were fatally injured. The aircraft was owned and operated by the pilot, and had departed Monterey Airport at 1900 on the day of the accident for a local personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident and no flight plan had been filed.

On September 24, 1997, a teardown inspection of the aircraft engine was performed by a Lycoming accident investigator and witnessed by an Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector. The engine had incurred extensive fire damage and the magnetos were destroyed by heat. The Lycoming representative stated that there was no evidence of incorrect assembly, internal failure, or excessively worn parts. The exhaust muffler was opened and no evidence of collapsed baffles or other flow restrictions were found. The Lycoming representative stated that the engine appeared to have been serviceable at the time of the accident.

The remainder of the aircraft was destroyed by impact and fire and it was not possible to verify fuel state or control system continuity. The FAA inspector who surveyed the crash site stated that there was no evidence of in-flight structural failure. There was no damage to ground structures or injuries to ground personnel, however, all of the undergrowth in the immediate area of the impact site had been destroyed by the postaccident fire.

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