Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Army Staff Sgt. Chad A. Tucker

Remember Our Heroes

Colo. crash kills elite local soldier

A 28-year-old Titusville man is among four members of an elite special operations unit the Army has confirmed were killed in a helicopter training accident in Colorado.

Those killed in Wednesday's crash were Staff Sgt. Chad Tucker, a 2000 graduate of Astronaut High; Chief Warrant Officers 4 Terrance Geer, 40, of Casper, Wyo., and Robert Johnson, 41, of Seattle; and Staff Sgt. Paul Jackson, 33, of Lancaster, Md.

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 the crew's 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.

The 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.

In June 2007, at Fort Campbell, Ky., Tucker was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the oldest U.S. military aviation decoration.

Tucker was a Black Hawk helicopter crew chief.

According to the Army, while on an aerial combat flight in Iraq, enemy forces opened fire on his helicopter.

Tucker not only helped guide the helicopter to a landing zone, but he also fired his weapon to provide cover so a wounded soldier could be brought aboard.

The DFC citation said Tucker's courage and leadership in aerial combat contributed directly to the successful execution of the mission.

Tucker's wife, Megan Tucker, and a son live at Fort Campbell.

His parents, Wendell and Wanda Tucker, live in Titusville. They could not be reached for comment Saturday, but in a previous interview with FLORIDA TODAY, Wanda Tucker said of her son, "It has always been his dream to be in the military since he was a little boy. I have pictures of him since he was 3 or 4 in camouflage pants."

Tucker followed his father and his grandfather, R.G. Tucker, in serving in the Army, his family has said.

"Chad lived to serve the Lord through the Army," Kyle Miller, Tucker's cousin, said Saturday. "He dedicated his life and everything that he had to serve his country."

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 he wouldn't discuss further details.

Biography of Staff Sgt. Chad A. Tucker

Staff Sgt. Chad A. Tucker, 28:

Tucker was a native of Titusville, Fla., and entered the Army in June 2000. Following basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Eustis, Va., Tucker served with 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment at Coleman Barracks, Germany, as both a helicopter mechanic and crew chief. In 2003, he successfully assessed with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment as a helicopter mechanic. Tucker arrived to 1st Battalion, 160th SOAR, at Fort Campbell, Ky., in January 2004.

He was a combat veteran with 14 deployments, all in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

His awards included the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal for Valor, eight Air Medals, two Army Commendation Medals, three Army Good Conduct Medals, National Defense Service Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal-Campaign Star, Global War On Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War On Terrorism Service Medal, NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, the Combat Action Badge, and the Basic Aviation Badge.

He is survived by his wife, Megan Tucker, and his son, Jeremy, of Fort Campbell, Ky.; and his father and mother, Wendell and Wanda Tucker, of Titusville, Fla.; and his sister, Crystal Castaner, of Titusville, Fla.

Chad Tucker

Chad Tucker back

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