Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Terrance W. Geer

Remember Our Heroes

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. — The Army on Friday identified four members of an elite special operations unit killed in a helicopter training accident in Colorado.

Those killed in Wednesday's crash were Chief Warrant Officers 4 Terrance Geer, 40, of Casper, Wyo.; and Robert Johnson, 41, of Seattle; and Staff Sgts. Paul Jackson, 33, of Lancaster, Md., and Chad Tucker, 28, of Titusville, Fla.

Geer's wife, Gina, said in a statement released by the Army that the family appreciates the outpouring of support from the community.

"While we sincerely appreciate the nation's interest in Terrance's life and his contributions to our great nation, we ask that the media respect our privacy and allow us time to grieve," she said.

The soldiers were members of the Fort Campbell-based Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, created more than 20 years ago after a failed mission to rescue hostages in Iran.

Army Special Operations Command officials said their MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed while conducting mountain and environmental training near Colorado's second-highest summit, Mount Massive.

Each of the highly decorated soldiers had extensive combat experience and had completed the Army's most rigorous schools and training programs.

Their elite aviation unit is home to some of the Army's best helicopter pilots, who focus on getting Special Forces soldiers, Army Rangers and Navy SEALS into some of the most dangerous areas of the world for covert operations.

Using the cover of nightfall and keeping low to the ground to avoid radar detection, the pilots often navigate through enemy territory and bad weather to safely deliver and retrieve soldiers.

Army special forces leaders recognized the need for a highly trained aviation unit after an operation failed to rescue hostages in Iran in 1980 and resulted in two helicopter crashes and eight deaths.

The new team was first called Task Force 160, and it began training its pilots to operate in low-light situations, including using night-vision equipment and infrared devices, according to, a defense analysis Web site. The soldiers' special capabilities earned them the name Night Stalkers.

In 1993, during fighting in Somalia, two helicopters piloted by Night Stalkers were shot down in Mogadishu. The subsequent rescue was made famous by the book and movie "Black Hawk Down."

The unit has had a large role in Iraq and Afghanistan and has suffered several casualties.

In 2005, eight members of the unit were killed along with eight Navy SEALs after their MH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade, making it the single deadliest attack on U.S. forces in the country at that time.

More recently, five Night Stalkers were among eight service members killed in February 2007 when a Chinook crashed in southern Afghanistan.

Currently the regiment has four battalions, two based at Fort Campbell, one at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., and one at Fort Lewis, Wash. They use a variety of helicopters including Black Hawks, Chinooks and AH-6 Little Birds.

Tim Cash, president of the Night Stalkers Association, a nonprofit group that provides scholarships and other support for the unit's soldiers and their families, described its members as "quiet professionals" who wanted their privacy to mourn the fallen soldiers.

Maj. Brandon A. Bissell, a spokesman for the unit at Fort Campbell, said a memorial for the fallen soldiers is planned, but wouldn't discuss further details.

Geer was a native of Casper, Wyo., and entered the Navy in February 1989. After serving five years in the U.S. Navy, Geer was accepted into the Army Warrant Officer Program at Fort Rucker, Ala., in 1994. Upon graduation from the UH-1 Course in 1995, Geer was assigned to the 82nd Air Ambulance Medical Company at Fort Riley, Kan., as an Aero Medical Evacuation Pilot and Instructor Pilot. In 1998, after completing the Instrument Flight Examiner Course, Geer was assigned to the Combat Maneuver Training Center at Hohenfels, Germany, as a Standardization Instructor Pilot. After a successful assessment in 2002, Geer was assigned to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment as an Instructor Pilot and Aviation Safety Officer.

He was a combat veteran with 12 deployments, 11 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and one in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

His awards included the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, three Air Medals for valor, seven Air Medals, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, two Army Commendation Medals, the Army Achievement Medal, the Navy Achievement Medal, the Valorous Unit Award, the Navy Good Conduct Medal, two National Defense Service Medals, three Southwest Asia Service Medals, Afghanistan Campaign Medal-Campaign Star, Iraqi Campaign Medal-Campaign Star, Global War On Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Kuwaiti Liberation Medal (Government of Saudi Arabia), Kuwaiti Liberation Medal (Government of Kuwait), Navy Aircrew Insignia Badge, and Senior Aviator Badge.

Geer is survived by his wife, Gina Geer, and his son and daughter, Braden and Emma of Clarksville, Tenn.; and his mother, Barbara Geer, of Toledo, Ohio.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Terrance Geer, 40, a native of Casper, Wyo., joined the Navy in 1989 and was accepted into the Army Warrant Officer program in 1994. The veteran pilot had 12 deployments, 11 in suport of Operation Iraqi Freedom and one in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. He is survived by his wife, Gina Geer, and two children, Braden and Emma, and his mother, Barbara Geer, of Toledo, Ohio.

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