The Pentagon is fretting whether or not to release the names of the 22 SEALs who perished in the CH-47 crash in Afghanistan on Saturday. Ultimately, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, after hearing the concerns of commanders about releasing the names of special-operations troops, has decided to do so. Their names should be out by mid-day Thursday. Many, of course, have already been identified by their grieving, but proud, families.
So it’s worth noting that only hours ago, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment — the elite Army unit at Fort Campbell, Ky., that usually flies SEALs into harm’s way — released the names of a pair of pilots killed after their “helicopter crashed while conducting routine military training involving Rangers and other special operations personnel.” That statement — except for the routine military training part — echoes what happened in Afghanistan early Saturday morning.
But the pair wasn’t flying the CH-47 that went down in the Tangi Valley. In fact, the chopper that went down in Afghanistan wasn’t being flown by the 160th, but by a crew from Fort Drum, N.Y. in a standard Army-issue, non-special-ops, CH-47.
These two guys from the 160th SOAR — Capt. John D. Hortman, 30, a native of Inman, S.C., and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Steven B. Redd, a native of Lancaster, Calif. — died Monday when their AH-6M Little Bird crashed on the live-fire range at Fort Benning, Ga.
“Chief Warrant Officer 3 Steven Redd was a hero,” his family said in a statement. “He served his nation for more than 19 years, and spent 10 of those doing what he particularly loved to do – flying with fellow Night Stalkers and supporting Special Operations forces. There is no question that Steve believed in what he was doing. He never doubted why he was there. Steve died doing something he deeply believed in.”
The irony? Redd had flown helicopters on 10 combat tours in Iraq, and two in Afghanistan (Hortman had been to Iraq three times). Yet they died in Georgia, barely 300 miles from home. They will achieve none of the acclaim of those who perished in Afghanistan last weekend. But that is our fault, not theirs. They surely are just as worthy of recognition and honor.