Update2: Officials name those killed in helicopter crash, former western North Dakota resident among them
A former western North Dakota resident was among four soldiers killed when helicopters crashed Monday night at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, family friend Nikki McAlpin, Grassy Butte, said this morning. A family email also confirmed the tragedy.
Friends in the Grassy Butte and Watford City areas are among those mourning the death of Capt. Anne Rockeman Montgomery, 25.
Rockeman Montgomery was an Army aviator. She had served on active duty since August 2008, and arrived for duty at JBLM in December 2010. She is a 2008 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, and had not deployed overseas. Her awards include the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Army Aviator Badge.
Two two-seat reconnaissance choppers crashed after 8 p.m. in the southwest training area of the sprawling base Monday, according to the Army.
Officials released information on the deceased this afternoon. Others include:
· Warrant Officer Three Frank A. Buoniconti, 36, an Army aviator and a Colorado native. Buoniconti had served on active duty since July 1994, and arrived for duty at JBLM in early November.
Buoniconti was commissioned a Warrant Officer in 2003, and since has had assignments at Fort Bragg, N.C., and the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif. He deployed to Iraq twice, and Afghanistan twice. Buoniconti's awards include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal (six awards), Army Commendation Medal (nine awards), and the Army Commendation Medal w/"V" device, the Army Senior Aviator Badge, and other awards and decorations.
· Chief Warrant Officer Three Joseph S. Satterfield, 32, an Army aviator and a native of Alaska. Satterfield had served on active duty since September 1997, and arrived for duty at JBLM in December 2009.
Satterfield was commissioned as a warrant officer in 2002, and since has had assignments in Korea and at Fort Campbell, Ky. He deployed to Iraq once, and to Afghanistan once. Satterfield's awards include the Air Medal (two awards), Army Commendation Medal (two awards), the Aviator Badge, and other awards and decorations.
· Chief Warrant Officer Two Lucas Daniel Sigfrid, 32, an Army aviator and a native of Alabama. Sigfrid had served on active duty since May 2008, and arrived for duty at JBLM in January.
Sigfrid was commissioned a Warrant Officer in 2008, and had not deployed overseas. His awards include the National Defense Service Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Army Aviator Badge.
The daughter of a U.S. Foreign Service officer, Rockeman (who since marriage had gone by Rockeman Montgomery) lived around the world, including Malawi, Ethiopia -- and McKenzie County, according to a press release issued by Sen. Kent Conrad in November 2003 when he nominated her among six North Dakota students to attend a service academy. She attended West Point in New York, family said.
In the release was information from an essay Rockeman had submitted. In it she wrote, "One of my strongest and earliest wishes has been to show the world how I see my country, a nation among nations with an intangible something that sets it apart, a country I have seen from afar as the best. My country, though sometimes appearing rough and hard, was still the best I knew from my varied childhood. I want to be a soldier to help represent and communicate that reality."
It was not immediately clear whether the aircraft collided or crashed separately.
"We don't have details on what actually occurred," base spokesman J.C. Mathews said. "That will be part of the investigation."
The OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters were on a training mission, Mathews said, further details will be part of the investigation.
The Kiowa Warrior is a single-engine, four-bladed aircraft used for armed reconnaissance, Mathews said. It's often called a scout helicopter.
The crash site is geographically closest to the civilian community of Rainier, which is south of Tacoma, Mathews said.
Early Tuesday morning, two sheriff's vehicles blocked access to a rural plot of land where officials erected large sets of lights to illuminate the crash site.
Base officials secured the crash site late Monday and immediately began an investigation. The Combat Readiness Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., will lead the overall investigation into the accident, base spokesman Joe Piek said.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends and loved ones of the soldiers involved in this tragic accident," said Maj. Gen. Lloyd Miles, acting senior Army commander at Lewis-McChord and deputy commanding general of I Corps. "We will conduct a thorough investigation into this incident, and we will do everything in our power to support the families of the brave soldiers who died this evening."
In December 2006, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from Fort Lewis crashed southeast of Seattle during a night training mission, killing all three aboard.
Joint Base Lewis-McChord is one of the largest bases in the country, with about 100,000 military and civilian personnel.
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