Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Matthew G. Wagstaff

Remember Our Heroes

Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Matthew G. Wagstaff, 34, of Orem, Utah

CWO3 was assigned to 5th Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.; died Sept. 21, 2010 in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crash during combat operations in Zabul province, Afgha, 2010nistan. Also killed in the crash were: Army Maj. Robert F. Baldwin, Army Sgt. Marvin R. Calhoun Jr., Lt. (SEAL) Brendan J. Looney, Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonah D. McClellan, Senior Chief Cryptologic Technician (Collection) David B. McLendon, Navy Special Warfare Operator 3rd Class (SEAL) Denis C. Miranda, Army Staff Sgt. Joshua D. Powell, and Navy Special Warfare Operator 2nd Class (SEAL) Adam O. Smith.

An Orem family is grieving the loss of a son who died this week in Afghanistan.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Matthew G. Wagstaff, of Orem, was killed Tuesday during his work with Operation Enduring Freedom. Family friend Kelvin Brock said Wagstaff was a big and burly former football player, but he was a teddy bear.

"Matt was actually kind of quiet, reserved," Brock said.

Wagstaff, 34, played football at Orem High School before attending and graduating from Utah State University. He was in the Army for nearly 10 years, and joined for his love of flying.

"Matt was really interested in becoming a helicopter pilot," Brock said.

During his time in the Army, Wagstaff served three tours of duty, including one in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. Brock said Wagstaff was in more of an administrative role at first, so he was excited to be flying in his latest tour, which he left for in March. In January, Wagstaff married his wife, Tiffany, and intended to take her on a honeymoon when he came home for a short leave next month.

According to a 2007 article in the Barstow Desert Dispatch, Wagstaff was one of several pilots who flew Black Hawk helicopters through Los Angeles for scenes in the "Transformers" movie. Brock said Wagstaff enjoyed his involvement in the movie, though only a glimpse of him could be seen on the screen.

"That was a fun little factoid that he enjoyed sharing with people," he said.

Brock said Wagstaff loved motorcycles and had a Harley-Davidson that he liked to ride, but what made him the happiest was to spend time with his family. He said Wagstaff's family is upset by his death, but comforted that he died an honorable man who was doing what he loved.

"They're devastated at his loss, but at the same time proud of his service," Brock said.

Funeral arrangements for Wagstaff are pending. His family released a statement through Brock, thanking the public for their support.

"We appreciate the support and concern expressed by our family, friends, neighbors and community during this difficult time," the family said. "Matt died doing what he loved to do -- and that was to fly. He was a tremendous husband, son, brother and uncle, and he served his country well."

Wagstaff was a Black Hawk pilot with the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). According to Fort Campbell media relations officer Rick Rzepka, Wagstaff was deployed to Afghanistan in March.

Rzepka said Wagstaff was one of nine NATO troops killed Tuesday in a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan. He said five of the nine people killed were from the 101st Division. The four other members of the 101st Division killed were Maj. Robert F. Baldwin, 39, of Muscatine, Iowa; Chief Warrant Officer Jonah D. McClellan, 26, of St. Louis Park, Minnesota; Staff Sgt. Joshua D. Powell, 25, of Pleasant Plains, Illinois; and Sgt. Marvin R. Calhoun Jr., 23, of Elkhart, Indiana, according to a news release from the Department of Defense.

Baldwin was assigned to the brigade headquarters; Wagstaff, McClellan and Calhoun were assigned to the 5th Battalion; and Powell was assigned to the 6th Battalion, according to the release.

Rzepka said the losses are difficult, but they are not uncommon for the 101st. He said the division has been at the spearhead of nearly every major conflict since World War II and was the longest serving unit in Vietnam.

"This division serves one purpose, and that's to engage the enemy in combat," he said.

He said the troops in the 101st are the best in the Army and are highly skilled.

Wagstaff's body was transferred to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware Wednesday.

Governor Gary Herbert issued a statement Wednesday afternoon extending his sympathy to Wagstaff's family.

"Jeanette and I extend our sincere condolences to the family of Chief Warrant Officer Matthew Wagstaff," he said in the statement. "This young man placed service above self as he sought to bring peace and stability to a troubled land."

The nine NATO soldiers killed Tuesday morning in a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan make 2010 the deadliest year for the U.S.-led international force in Afghanistan.

Another NATO service member, an Afghan soldier and an American civilian were wounded in the crash, the military said in a statement.

The helicopter crashed in the Diachopan district of Zabul province, provincial spokesman Mohammad Jan Rasoulyar told The Washington Post. Rasoulyar told the newspaper that the Taliban took responsibility for downing the helicopter, but he added that there is no evidence to support that claim.

NATO said the cause of the crash is under investigation but noted there were "no reports of enemy fire in the area," the Post reported.

The crash on Tuesday raised the toll of NATO troops killed in Afghanistan so far this year to 529, according to a tally kept by icasualties.org, the Post reported. Last year 521 NATO troops died in Afghanistan.

The incident appeared to be the deadliest NATO aircraft crash in Afghanistan since the Oct. 26 Chinook crash in western Badghis province, which killed seven U.S. service members and three Drug Enforcement Administration agents, the Post reported.

Wagstaff is survived by his wife, Tiffany A. Wagstaff of Clarksville; and parents Ronald and Suzanne Wagstaff of Orem, Utah.

Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Matthew G. Wagstaff was killed in action on 9/21/10.

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