WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today expressed deep sadness over the loss of seven American lives in southern Iraq yesterday, and said his thoughts and prayers are with the family and those who served with these fine soldiers. The Army has not confirmed the identities of the seven soldiers and will not provide official notification until all of the Soldiers are positively identified. The names of the Oklahomans who are believed to have lost their lives include: Cpl Michael Thompson, Warrant Officer Brady Rudolf and Sgt. Dan Eshbaugh. They were assigned to Detachment 1, Company B, 2nd Battalion, 149th Aviation, out of Lexington, Oklahoma. Since notification of the incident yesterday, Senator Inhofe and his office have been in constant communication with Maj. Gen. Bud Wyatt and Army headquarters.
"Thursday night in southern Iraq, we lost seven American heroes in a CH-47 Chinook helicopter crash near the town of Basra," Senator Inhofe said. "My thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends as well as the men and women of the Oklahoma and Texas National Guard and the 2nd Battalion, 149th Aviation. These Soldiers selflessly served in our nation's military, volunteering to fight an enemy intent on bringing harm to this nation and its people. I am humbled by their courage, honor and commitment.
"I know the families want more information and I am working with the Army and General Wyatt to ensure we get them more information as soon as it is available."
The 2nd Battalion, 149th Aviation, made up of approximately 200 Texas and Oklahoma Guard members, was mobilized in June and left for Iraq in August of this year.
"I remember seeing and reading about their deployment ceremony in Lexington and seeing the pictures of the Soldiers and their families saying goodbye, then watching as they departed for Fort Sill in buses and helicopters. During the ceremony, General Wyatt talked about the hardships and turmoil the families were going through and promised the Soldiers and family members that the Oklahoma National Guard would be there to support all of them. I know General Wyatt and the entire National Guard Family is doing that right now - taking care of the families. This is also what we must do as a State and as a Nation - take care of our Soldiers and their families; honor them; and ensure this nation never forgets the sacrifice of these brave soldiers, who gave the last full measure of devotion to their country."
Information on the Helicopter Tragedy
The Army CH-47 helicopter crashed shortly after midnight on September 18th while enroute from Kuwait to Balad Air Base, north of Iraq. All seven Soldiers on board where killed. This crash was the worst helicopter accident for U.S. troops since Aug. 22, 2007, when a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed in northern Iraq, killing 14 U.S. Soldiers. The CH-47 is built by Boeing and is a twin-engine, tandem rotor heavy-lift helicopter used for troop movement, artillery emplacement and battlefield resupply.
The mishap helicopter, part of a four-helicopter convoy, crashed in the desert about 60 miles west of Basra. The crash occurred in an area of Iraq under British military control, and a British quick reaction force and road convoy were dispatched to help American officials at the site. The cause of the crash is not known at this time but Army officials believe it was not the result of hostile action. The incident is currently under investigation. Additional information will be released as it becomes available.
Currently, over 2,600 members of the Oklahoma National Guard are serving in Iraq.
"I am proud of the many Oklahomans who courageously serve our nation in the United States military. Just this March, I had the opportunity to visit with many of them in Iraq and I could not have been prouder. As this nation continues its fight in the Global War on Terror, our Oklahoma National Guard is on the front lines fighting for liberty and democracy throughout the globe. Through their efforts, the world has been made a more secure, prosperous, and better place for all of mankind. The courage and dedication of our troops and their families are an inspiration to us all."