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5 Special Operators killed in training accident Friday identified

Department of Defense has released the names of the five Special Operators killed in a training accident on Friday. Never forget.
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Faces of five Night Stalkers killed in training accident with unit logo shown.
Night Stalkers Don't Quit!

In an unimaginable tragedy over Veterans Day weekend, five Special Operators were killed in a training accident while refueling over the Mediterranean Sea. According to the Department of Defense, there are no indications the crash was caused by enemy / hostile actions. The MH-60 Blackhawk was conducting aerial refueling training when the aircraft experienced an in-flight emergency, resulting in the crash.

Earlier today, Department of Defense officials identified the service members as Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen R. Dwyer, 38, of Clarksville, Tennessee; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Shane M. Barnes, 34, of Sacramento, California; Staff Sgt. Tanner W. Grone, 26, of Gorham, New Hampshire; Sgt. Andrew P. Southard, 27, of Apache Junction, Arizona; and Sgt. Cade M. Wolfe, 24, of Mankato, Minnesota. The men were part of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), a special operations force of the United States Army that provides helicopter aviation support for special operations forces, also known as the Night Stalkers.

MH-60 helicopter with Night Stalker operators performing rescue training on an airstrip.
Philippine sailors assigned to Naval Special Operations Units and U.S. Naval Special Warfare operators load a simulated casualty onto an MH-60 Blackhawk operated by pilots from U.S. Army 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, also known as “Night Stalkers,” while doing medical hoist exercises at Joint Task Force Malampaya in El Nido, Palawan, Philippines, during Balikatan 23, April 23, 2023

According to Special Operations Command, “the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment’s mission is to organize, equip, train, resource and employ Army special operations aviation forces worldwide in support of contingency missions and combatant commanders. Known as Night Stalkers, these Soldiers are recognized for their proficiency in nighttime operations. They are highly trained and ready to accomplish the very toughest missions in all environments, anywhere in the world, day or night, with unparalleled precision. They employ highly modified Chinook, Black Hawk and assault and attack configurations of Little Bird helicopters. Soldiers of the 160th have been actively and continuously engaged in combat operations since October 2001.”

“We mourn the loss of these five incredible soldiers, each of them a national treasure,” Lt. Gen. Jonathan P. Braga, Commanding General of United States Army Special Operations Command, said in a statement. “They hail from rare patriotic families with deep military service ties that span multiple generations and formations. This is devastating news that reverberates across the entire special operations community. Every loss is tough, but in this case, service to the Nation is truly a family business and it’s hard to express the amount of sorrow that we all feel right now. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families, their loved ones, and their fellow soldiers. Like the special operations community always does, we will wrap our arms around them, grieve with them, and promise to never forget them.”

In his own statement, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said, “While we continue to gather more information about this deadly crash, it is another stark reminder that the brave men and women who defend our great nation put their lives on the line each and every day to keep our country safe. They represent the best of America. We will remember their service and their sacrifice… My prayers are with the patriots we have lost and their families, loved ones, and teammates.”

President Biden also publicly acknowledged the loss, with his thoughts on X (the platform previously known as Twitter):

But perhaps the most touching tribute of all came from brother-in-arms, Jeff Heppner, via Facebook:
Text about the Night Stalker crash from Jeff Heppner on social media.

The Night Stalkers Creed:

Service in the 160th is a calling only a few will answer for the mission is constantly demanding and hard. And when the impossible has been accomplished the only reward is another mission that no one else will try. As a member of the Night Stalkers I am a tested volunteer seeking only to safeguard the honor and prestige of my country, by serving the elite Special Operations Soldiers of the United States. I pledge to maintain my body, mind and equipment in a constant state of readiness for I am a member of the fastest deployable Task Force in the world, ready to move at a moment’s notice anytime, anywhere, arriving time on target plus or minus 30 seconds.

I guard my unit’s mission with secrecy, for my only true ally is the night and the element of surprise. My manner is that of the Special Operations Quiet Professional, secrecy is a way of life. In battle, I eagerly meet the enemy for I volunteered to be up front where the fighting is hard. I fear no foe’s ability, nor underestimate his will to fight.

The mission and my precious cargo are my concern. I will never surrender. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy, and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.

Gallantly will I show the world and the elite forces I support that a Night Stalker is a specially selected and well trained soldier.

I serve with the memory and pride of those who have gone before me for they loved to fight, fought to win and would rather die than quit.

Night Stalkers Don’t Quit!

Rest in peace, heroes.