The Pentagon identified on Monday the five special operations aviators who were killed in a training flight crash in the eastern Mediterranean Sea on Friday evening.
The soldiers, all assigned to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, were 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.
“Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen Dwyer, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Shane Barnes, Staff Sgt. Tanner Grone, Sgt. Andrew Southard, and Sgt. Cade Wolfe were truly SOF professionals and are among the nation’s finest soldiers,” Col. Roger P. Waleski Jr., commander of the 160th SOAR (Abn.), said on Monday.
“Their loss has left an indelible void within this Regiment that will never be filled,” he said.
Lt. Gen. Jonathan Braga, commander of US Army Special Operations Command, also said in a statement Monday that the loss of the five soldiers is “devastating news that reverberates across the entire Special Operations community.”
“We mourn the loss of these five incredible soldiers, each of them a national treasure. They hail from rare patriotic families with deep military service ties that span multiple generations and formations,” Braga said.
The accident on Friday occurred during a routine air refueling mission, according to US European Command. The accident is currently under investigation.
The special operations forces were in the region as part of the military’s broader contingency planning around the war between Israel and Hamas, should an evacuation of US citizens from the region be ordered, for example, according to two US officials.
According to service details shared by Army Special Operations Command, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dwyer was commissioned as a field artillery officer in 2009 from the United States Military Academy, before transitioning to a warrant officer and graduating flight school in 2018. As part of the 160th SOAR, Dwyer deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, and supported “several no-notice deployments and exercises worldwide,” according to the Army.
His military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star, Air Medal with Combat device, Meritorious Service Medal, four Army Commendation Medals, and the Ranger Tab.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Barnes became a UH-60L Black Hawk pilot after graduating with a degree in English literature in 2011 from Gonzaga University. He “excelled” as a platoon leader and pilot in command while in Korea, and then was assigned a platoon in the 160th SOAR in 2016. In 2020, he “fully dedicated himself to the organization” by resigning his commission and becoming a warrant officer, the Army release says. As part of the 160th, Barnes deployed to Afghanistan and multiple times to Iraq, as well as participating in multiple no-notice deployments and exercises.
Barnes’ military awards and decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor device, Air Medal with Combat device and the Army Commendation Medal and Army Achievement Medal.
Staff Sgt. Grone enlisted in the Army in 2017 as a Black Hawk repairer, according to his service details, and was assigned to the 160th SOAR. He went on to serve as a flight instructor and MH-60M Black Hawk crew chief. He deployed multiple times to Iraq, Afghanistan and several no-notice deployments and exercises. His awards and decorations include the Air Medal with Combat device, Army Commendation Medal and Army Achievement Medal with combat device.
Sgt. Southard enlisted in 2015 as a Black Hawk repairer, and was first assigned to the 1st Armored Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade. He volunteered for an assignment with the 160th SOAR and completed the regiment’s “extensive training and assessment program” this year.
He deployed to Afghanistan as part of the 1st Armored Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade. Among his military awards and decorations are two Army Commendation Medals, Army Achievement Medal and the Overseas Service Ribbon.
Sgt. Wolfe enlisted in the Army in 2018 as a Black Hawk repairer and was assigned to the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade in Hawaii. After going through the 160th SOAR’s assessment and training program, Wolfe was assigned to 1st Battalion, 160th SOAR and served as a MH-60M Black Hawk crew chief. Among his awards and decorations are two Army Commendation Medals, an Army Achievement Medal and Overseas Service Ribbon.
In a statement on Sunday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the crash was “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,” Austin said.