Soldier from Phoenix area among 5 killed in Army helicopter training crash
Nov 13, 2023, 7:42 AM | Updated: 2:06 pm
(U.S. Army Special Operations Command Public Affairs Photos via AP)
PHOENIX – A soldier from the Phoenix area was among the five U.S. Army members killed early Saturday when a helicopter crashed into the Mediterranean Sea, officials announced Monday.
Sgt. Andrew P. Southard, 27, of Apache Junction died when an MH-60 Blackhawk went down after experiencing an unspecified in-flight emergency during aerial refueling training, the Department of Defense said.
“There are no indications the crash was caused by enemy/hostile actions,” the DOD said in a press release.
Southard enlisted in the Army in 2015 as a UH-60 repairer and served as an MH-60M crew chief. He was first assigned to Fort Bliss, Texas, upon completing advanced individual training, and he completed a 13-month rotation to Task Force Sinai in support of ongoing peacekeeping operations. He deployed to Afghanistan and was awarded two Army Commendation medals and an Army Achievement medal among other citations.
“On behalf of our City Council, the city of Apache Junction sends its condolences to the family of Sgt. Andrew Southard, who we have been informed, was one of the five servicepeople killed this weekend in a training exercise over the Mediterranean Sea and who is from our community, having attended Cactus Canyon Junior High and Apache Junction High School. Our thoughts are with the Southard family at this difficult time,” Apache Junction Mayor Chip Wilson said in a statement.
The others killed in the crash were Chief Warrant Officer Stephen R. Dwyer, 38 of Clarksville, Tennessee; Chief Warrant Officer Shane M. Barnes, 34, of Sacramento, California; Staff Sgt. Tanner W. Grone, 26, of Gorham, New Hampshire; and Sgt. Cade M. Wolfe, 24, of Mankato, Minnesota.
The fallen soldiers were part of the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
“This is devastating news that reverberates across the entire Special Operations community,” Lt. Gen. Jonathan Braga, commander of the Army Special Operations Command, said Monday in a statement. “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.”
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement that “we mourn the tragic loss of five U.S. service members during a training accident in the Mediterranean Sea early Saturday morning.”
“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,” he said.
The U.S. has built up its force presence in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
There are two carrier strike groups operating in the region, U.S. Air Force squadrons have received additional crews and warplanes, and U.S. special operations forces have been added to help Israel in efforts to rescue hostages taken into Gaza.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.