Thomaas Arthur Ratzlaff – Senior Chief Petty Officer (SEAL), United States Navy

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Release

IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 705-11
August 11, 2011

DOD Identifies Service Members Killed In CH-47 Crash

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of 30 servicemembers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.  They died August 6, 2011 in Wardak province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when their CH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed.

The following sailors assigned to an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit were killed:

  • Lieutenant Commander (SEAL) Jonas B. Kelsall, 32, of Shreveport, Louisiana
  • Special Warfare Operator Master Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Louis J. Langlais, 44, of Santa Barbara, California
  • Special Warfare Operator Senior Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Thomas A. Ratzlaff, 34, of Green Forest, Arkansas
  • Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Senior Chief Petty Officer (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist) Kraig M. Vickers 36, of Kokomo, Hawaii,
  • Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Brian R. Bill, 31, of Stamford, Connecticut
  • Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) John W. Faas, 31, of Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Kevin A. Houston, 35, of West Hyannisport, Massachusetts
  • Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Matthew D. Mason, 37, of Kansas City, Missouri
  • Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Stephen M. Mills, 35, of Fort Worth, Texas,
  • Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Chief Petty Officer (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist/Diver) Nicholas H. Null, 30, of Washington, West Virginia
  • Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Robert J. Reeves, 32, of Shreveport, Louisiana
  • Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Heath M. Robinson, 34, of Detroit, Michigan
  • Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Darrik C. Benson, 28, of Angwin, California
  • Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL/Parachutist) Christopher G. Campbell, 36, of Jacksonville, North Carolina
  • Information Systems Technician Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist) Jared W. Day, 28, of Taylorsville, Utah,
  • Master-at-Arms Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist) John Douangdara, 26, of South Sioux City, Nebraska
  • Cryptologist Technician (Collection) Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist) Michael J. Strange, 25, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL/Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist) Jon T. Tumilson, 35, of Rockford, Iowa,
  • Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Aaron C. Vaughn, 30, of Stuart, Florida, and
  • Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Jason R. Workman, 32, of Blanding, Utah.

The following sailors assigned to a West Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit were killed:

  • Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Jesse D. Pittman, 27, of Ukiah, California, and
  • Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 2nd Class (SEAL) Nicholas P. Spehar, 24, of Saint Paul, Minnesota

The soldiers killed were:

  • Chief Warrant Officer David R. Carter, 47, of Centennial, Colo. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), Aurora, Colorado
  • Chief Warrant Officer Bryan J. Nichols, 31, of Hays, Kan. He was assigned to the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), New Century, Kansas
  • Staff Sgt. Patrick D. Hamburger, 30, of Lincoln, Neb. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), Grand Island, Nebraska
  • Sgt. Alexander J. Bennett, 24, of Tacoma, Wash. He was assigned to the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), New Century, Kansas; and
  • Spc. Spencer C. Duncan, 21, of Olathe, Kan. He was assigned to the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), New Century, Kansas

The airmen killed were:

  • Tech. Sgt. John W. Brown, 33, of Tallahassee, Florida
  • Staff Sgt. Andrew W. Harvell, 26, of Long Beach, California; and
  • Tech. Sgt. Daniel L. Zerbe, 28, of York, Pennsylvania

All three airmen were assigned to the 24th Special Tactics Squadron, Pope Field, North Carolina

UPDATE:  August 12, 2011 — Sergeant Hamburger was posthumously promoted to Staff Sergeant.


Thomas Ratzlaff wanted to be a Navy SEAL ever since he was a young boy growing up in Green Forest, Arkansas.

taratzlaff-photo-001

“He did what he loved and died defending those he loved and those who loved him,” his nephew, Jeff Adams, said as he read a statement from the family.

When Ratzlaff visited his hometown in northwest Arkansas, his late father would bring him by the log cabin restaurant where he ordered an egg, sausage and wheat toast every morning.

“The whole town was proud of him,” said Loree Blackburn, who runs that restaurant.

Now, the community of 2,700 remembers Ratzlaff with flags flying at half-staff.

Ratzlaff, 34, would have been grateful for the outpouring of support for his family, his nephew said. But he “would want the focus to remain on the cause for which he made the sacrifice, not the sacrifice itself.”

He had two sons and a wife expecting their third child — a girl — in November. He also leaves behind a sister and mother.

“As a Navy SEAL team member, my uncle was trained to keep a low profile and to do his job,” Adams said.


Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Thomas A. Ratzlaff, 34, of Green Forest, Arkansas, enlisted in May 1995, the Navy said.

Ratzlaff completed Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL School in December 1998 at Coronado, California. He served in two East Coast-based special warfare units, starting in July 2006.

His decorations include four Bronze Star Medals with Combat ‘V’ device, two Joint Service Commendation Medals, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, Combat Action Ribbon, three Presidential Unit Citations, Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, five Navy Good Conduct Medals, two National Defense Service Medals, Kosovo Campaign Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, eight Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, NATO Medal, Navy Expert Rifleman Medal and Navy Expert Pistol Shot Medal. He also was qualified as an Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist.


Thomas Arthur Ratzlaff bio
Special Warfare Operator Senior Chief, U.S. Navy
Naval Special Warfare Group TWO

Senior Chief Ratzlaff, 34, was a native of Green Forest, Arkansas. He enlisted in the United States Navy in May, 1995.

He graduated from Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, Illinois in August, 1995. Senior Chief Ratzlaff completed Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL School, Coronado California in December, 1998. He served in two East Coast based Special Warfare Units from July, 2006 to August, 2011.

Senior Chief Ratzlaff’s awards include the Bronze Star Medal with Combat ‘V’ (4), Joint Service Commendation Medal (2), Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (2), Combat Action Ribbon, Presidential Unit Citation (3), Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, Navy Good Conduct Medal (5), National Defense Service Medal (2), Kosovo Campaign Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Kosovo Campaign Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (8), NATO Medal, Navy Expert Rifleman Medal, Navy Expert Pistol Shot Medal. He was also qualified as an Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist.


GREEN FOREST, Ark. (NNS) — Special Warfare Operator Senior Chief (SEAL/SW) Thomas A. Ratzlaff, 34, was honored in a memorial service at the Green Forest Assembly of God Church in Green Forest, Arkansas, August 16, 2011.

Ratzlaff was one of 30 U.S service members killed when a coalition CH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed in Afghanistan on, August 6, 2011.

Tuesday morning family, friends, service members and the community of Green Forest gathered to both celebrate the life and mourn the loss of their loved one.

The parking lot and walkways of the chapel were lined with volunteers from the Patriot Guard Riders and the Daughters of the American Revolution, all waving American flags and offering their support to the family of the fallen veteran.

Pastor Gray Hayhurst led the memorial service and spoke of Ratzlaff's life and Naval career. He consoled the family for their loss and thanked the veterans for their service.

Senior Chief Ratzlaff was described as being “selflessly dedicated to serving his family, country and brothers in arms. He was an extraordinary hero and his commitment to freedom will remain as a hallmark for Special Operations Warriors.”

Ratzlaff was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal for Valor (5th award), Defense Meritoriously Service Medal, and the Purple Heart.

Ratzlaff's interment is scheduled to take place at Arlington National Cemetery later this month.

The family requests that Memorial Contributions in his honor be made to the Navy SEAL Foundation, nswfoundation.org, or the Ratzlaff Memorial Fund, c/o First National Bank of Green Forrest, P.O box 1900, Green Forest, AR 72638.

RATZLAFF, THOMAS A
SOCS   US NAVY
AFGHANISTAN

  • DATE OF BIRTH: 11/03/1976
  • DATE OF DEATH: 08/06/2011
  • BURIED AT: SECTION 60  SITE 9935
    ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY

taratzlaff-gravesite-photo-by-eileen-horan-september-2011-002

taratzlaff-gravesite-photo-by-eileen-horan-september-2011-001

Read also our most popular topics on Arlington National Cemetery

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.