DOVER — The remains of servicemembers believed to have been killed in a helicopter crash over the eastern Mediterranean Sea during a training mission on Nov. 10 have been brought home.
At about 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Dover Air Force Base Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations conducted a dignified transfer of remains back to U.S. soil.
On Monday, the Department of Defense announced the deaths of five U.S. Army Special Operations aviation soldiers killed during routine flight training because of a helicopter crash.
There are no indications the crash was caused by enemy or hostile actions, defense officials said in a statement released after the crash.
The MH-60 Blackhawk was conducting aerial refueling training when the aircraft experienced an in-flight emergency resulting in the crash, according to Pentagon officials.
The deceased are:
Sgt. Andrew P. Southard, 27, of Apache Junction.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen R. Dwyer, 38 of Clarksville, Tennessee.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Shane M. Barnes, 34, of Sacramento, California.
Staff Sgt. Tanner W. Grone, 26, of Gorham, New Hampshire.
Sgt. Cade M. Wolfe, 24, of Mankato, Minnesota.
“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families of the fallen. The U.S. Army’s Combat Readiness Center is conducting an investigation into the incident,” U.S. Army Special Operations Command leaders said in its press release on Monday.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement that “we mourn the tragic loss of five U.S. service members during a training accident in the Mediterranean Sea early Saturday morning.
“While we continue to gather more information about this deadly crash, it is another stark reminder that the brave men and women who defend our great nation put their lives on the line each and every day to keep our country safe,” he said.
Though five soldiers died in the crashed, Dover Air Force Base officials only confirmed the dignified transfer of two -- Staff Sgt. Tanner W. Grone and Sgt. Andrew P. Southard – because their families gave the Air Force permission to release their names.
“Other Fallen service members may be included as part of this dignified transfer. News media coverage is subject to approval by the surviving designated family member,” said Christin K. Michaud, chief of Public Affairs for Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations, in a statement released on Monday.
A dignified transfer is the process by which, upon the return from the theater of operations to the United States, the remains of fallen military members are transferred from an aircraft to an awaiting vehicle. The remains are then transferred to the mortuary facility located at Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations, Dover Air Force Base.
The dignified transfer is not a ceremony; rather, it is a solemn movement of the transfer case by a carry team composed of military personnel from the fallen member’s respective service. A dignified transfer is conducted for every U.S. military member who dies in the theater of operation while in the service of their country. A senior ranking officer of the fallen member’s service presides over each dignified transfer.