In the eastern Mediterranean Sea, a tragic incident unfolded resulting in the unfortunate demise of five U.S. Army Special Operations personnel. Representatives of American officials have confirmed that these individuals were crew members of an MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.
While engaging in a refueling training mission late on Friday, the aircraft crashed into the waters off the coast of Cyprus. The crash is currently under investigation to determine the cause, according to three U.S. officials who shared the information on the condition of anonymity due to operational sensitivities.
As a precautionary measure, the Pentagon has discreetly deployed commando teams from the Joint Special Operations Command, including the renowned Army’s Delta Force and the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, to Cyprus. The purpose of their presence is to be prepared for potential assistance in the evacuation of American citizens from the region. These commando teams are highly skilled in hostage rescue operations as well.
Notably, recent events involving Hamas and Israel saw the capture of approximately a dozen American hostages. Although the Biden administration has indicated no intention to deploy American ground forces in the densely populated Gaza Strip, where major ground operations are currently being conducted by the Israeli military, the commando teams stand ready.
The unfortunate loss of the helicopter crew members is a significant blow to the Army’s elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, colloquially known as the Night Stalkers. They played a crucial role in clandestine missions by transporting the commandos.
The Pentagon has officially identified the fallen service members as Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen R. Dwyer, 38, hailing from Clarksville, Tenn.; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Shane M. Barnes, 34, from Sacramento; Staff Sgt. Tanner W. Grone, 26, from Gorham, N.H.; Sgt. Andrew P. Southard, 27, from Apache Junction, Ariz.; and Sgt. Cade M. Wolfe, 24, from Mankato, Minn.
It is worth noting that the Gerald R. Ford, an American aircraft carrier, is currently deployed in the eastern Mediterranean Sea near the coast of Israel. The Biden administration has clarified that this deployment aims to serve as a deterrent to Iran and its proxies in the region to prevent the escalation of the Gaza conflict.
On Sunday, the military’s European Command issued a statement acknowledging the five service members’ deaths, identifying the incident as a routine air refueling mission. However, no further details regarding the crash, the crew, or their specific unit were provided, reflecting the secretive nature of their operations.
In response to the tragedy, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III expressed his grief, stating, “We mourn the tragic loss of five U.S. service members during a training accident in the Mediterranean Sea.” President Biden also paid tribute to the fallen soldiers, particularly highlighting their commitment to the safety and security of the American people, especially during the observance of Veterans Day weekend.