The Air Force has identified the seven airmen killed the evening of March 15 when their HH-60G Pave Hawk crashed near the city of Al-Qa’im in western Iraq. The Air Force said the crash “did not appear to be a result of enemy activity,” though it remains under investigation, according to a release.
Four of the seven airmen were assigned to the New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing. They are: Capt. Christopher Zanetis, 37, an HH-60G pilot from Long Island City, N.Y.; Capt. Andreas O'Keeffe, 37, a Pave Hawk pilot from Center Moriches, N.Y.; MSgt. Christopher Raguso, 39, a resident of Commack, N.Y., an HH-60G special missions aviation flight engineer; and SSgt. Dashan Briggs, 30, a resident of Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., also an HH-60G special missions aviation flight engineer.
Two of the airmen were Air Force Reserve pararescuemen from the 308th Rescue Squadron at Patrick AFB, Fla. They are MSgt. William Posch, 36, and SSgt. Carl Enis, 31.
Captain Mark Weber, a combat rescue officer with the 38th Rescue Squadron at Moody AFB, Ga., also was killed. Weber received his commission in 2011.
Zanetis, a member of the New York City Fire Department who recently joined a New York City law firm, was assigned to the 101st Rescue Squadron where he has served since 2008. He previously deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan.
O’Keefe, also a member of the 101st RQS, previously deployed to Iraq three times, as well as Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, and Texas following Hurricane Harvey. He joined the 106th Rescue Wing in 2013, after serving as an armament systems specialist with the District of Columbia ANG’s 113th Wing and as a RC-26 pilot with the 174th Attack Wing at Hancock Field ANGB, N.Y.
Raguso, also a New York City fireman, previously deployed to Iraq as a fire protection specialist with the 106th Civil Engineering Squadron. He previously deployed twice to Afghanistan, and once to the Horn of Africa and to Texas and the Caribbean following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Briggs, a full-time military member with the 106th RQW, previously deployed to Afghanistan as a munitions system specialist and to Texas and the Caribbean following the recent hurricanes.
Posch, who had 18 years of service, was named one of the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year in 2014 for leading a crisis evacuation of more than 126 Americans from the US Embassy in South Sudan. In July 2017, he also helped rescue two German sailors after their sailboat caught fire and sunk. A month later he assisted with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. His decorations included the Air Medal with silver oak leaf cluster, an Aerial Achievement Medal, and the Air Force Commendation Medal with Valor.
Enis, who enlisted in the Air Force eight years ago, was awarded the Air Reserve Forces Meritorious Service Medal with bronze oak leaf cluster, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. He also had been nominated for Airman of the Year for both the 920th Rescue Wing and Air Force Reserve Command.
“Within minutes of the crash, our coalition partners were overhead to provide protective air support as a quick reaction force of coalition members and Iraqi Security Forces secured the scene,” said Air Forces Central Command boss Lt. Gen. Jeff Harrigian in a Facebook update. “This tragedy reminds us all of the tremendous sacrifice that comes with service to our nation in the fight to defeat ISIS.”
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Memorial Day is a time to remember all those who died fighting for their country, just like A1C William Pitsenbarger, an Air Force pararescueman who took part in more than 250 rescue missions before he was killed at the age of 21. His selflessness and valor in the Vietnam War earned him an Air Force Cross and, eventually, a Medal of Honor.
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