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02-20-06, 07:24 AM
Marines in N.C. Await IDs of Crash Victims
Marines in North Carolina Await IDs of 10 Victims of Helicopter Crash Off Djibouti

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. Feb 19, 2006 (AP)— The two Marine Corps helicopters that crashed off the coast of Africa, killing 10 service members, were from a unit based in North Carolina, U.S. military officials confirmed Sunday.

The two CH-53E choppers, carrying a dozen crew and troops from a U.S. counterterrorism force, went down during a training flight Friday in the Gulf of Aden, near the northern coastal town of Ras Siyyan in Djibouti.

Two crew members who were rescued were taken in stable condition to the U.S. military's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

The aircraft were from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464, based at Marine Corps Air Station New River.

The victims were two Air Force airmen and eight Marines; there was no immediate indication how many of the Marines were based in North Carolina.

"We were devastated," said Marine Corps 1st Lt. Paul Tremblay, who is based at Camp Lejeune, the huge post on the Atlantic Ocean that's next to the New River air station. "It hits us very hard as Marines when we lose anyone."

A statement from the U.S.-led Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa said relatives of the 10 victims had been notified, but names of those killed were being withheld in deference to the family's privacy.

"Our deepest sympathy and heartfelt prayers go out to the family members, friends, loved ones and co-workers of our fallen brothers- and sisters-in-arms," said Maj. Gen. Timothy Ghormley, commanding general of the counterterrorism force. "We mourn their loss and honor their memory."

Margaret Levens said her son, Sgt. Don Leo Ford Levens of Long Beach, Miss., was one of the Marines killed.

She said she was proud that her son had a chance to do what he loved.

"He was there to serve his country and to keep his family and country safe," Margaret Levens said. "It was what he wanted to do. He was there for us … in fact he had reenlisted for four (more) years."

The remains of the eight Marines and two airmen were sent back to the United States on Sunday, task force spokeswoman Maj. Susan Romano told The Associated Press by telephone from Djibouti.

One of the two crew members who were rescued was Marine pilot Susan Craig, 28, who called her parents, Pat and Lewis Sackett of Fall Creek, Wis.

"She's bruised and swollen, and her arms and legs got hurt, but no broken bones," Pat Sackett said.

She said her daughter was not sure what caused the crash.

The cause of the crash was under investigation. Military officials said there was no indication of hostile fire, and visibility was good with light wind.

It was a reminder of the danger of life in the military for the thousands of Marines at Camp Lejeune and New River.

"I don't want to die doing anything, but they died serving their country," said Lance Cpl. Michael Jowers, a 21-year-old Marine from Jacksonville, Fla., who has already served one tour in Iraq. "It's just a risk you take. It's just business."

In December, 10 Marines assigned to the Lejeune-based 2nd Marine Division were killed outside Fallujah, Iraq, by an improvised bomb.

The Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, set up in the former French colony in June 2002, is responsible for fighting terrorism in nine countries in the region: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Somalia in Africa and Yemen on the southwestern corner of the Arabian Peninsula.

The impoverished region is home to a sizable Muslim population. U.S. officials say it has been used by terrorists as a place to hide, recruit operatives and stage attacks.

The region has suffered four attacks either claimed by or attributed to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network, including bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; and the 2002 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen.

Editors: Associated Press writers Rodrique Ngowi in Nairobi, Kenya, and Valerie Bauman in Jackson, Miss., contributed to this report.

On the Net:

MCAS New River: www.newriver.usmc.mil/

Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464: www.2maw.usmc.mil/MAG29/H...efault.asp x

The Marines were assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464, Marine Air Group 29, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, II Marine Expeditionary Force, New River, N.C.

1st Lt. Brandon R. Dronet, 33, of Erath, La.

Sgt. James F. Fordyce, 22, of Newton Square, Pa.

Lance Cpl. Samuel W. Large, Jr., 21, of Villa Rica, Ga.

Sgt. Donnie Leo F. Levens, 25, of Long Beach, Miss.

Cpl. Matthieu Marcellus, 31, of Gainesville, Fla.

Sgt. Jonathan E. McColley, 23, of Gettysburg, Pa.

Lance Cpl. Nicholas J. Sovie, 20, of Ogdensburg, N.Y.

Capt. Bryan D. Willard, 33, of Hummelstown, Pa.

The airmen were:

SrA. Alecia S. Good, 23, of Broadview Heights, Ohio. Good was assigned to the 92nd Communications Squadron, Fairchild Air Force Base,Wash.

Staff Sgt. Luis M. Melendez Sanchez, 33, of Bayamon, Puerto Rico. Sanchez was assigned to the 1st Communications Squadron, Langley Air Force Base, Va.


02-20-06, 07:50 AM
Three Pa. Marines among 10 killed in helicopter crash
The Associated Press

In a recent e-mail to his family, Sgt. Jonathan E. McColley of Gettysburg displayed his sense of humor, attaching a photo labeled "sexy guy."

The picture, however, was all business. It showed the 23-year-old McColley, gun in hand, in a sandy, desolate area with a few trees in the background.

Less than two months away from being rotated out of Africa, McColley was one of 10 U.S. service members killed when a pair of Marine Corps helicopters crashed off the coast of Africa on Friday.

The two CH-53E choppers carrying a dozen crew and troops from a U.S. counterterrorism force crashed during a training flight in the Gulf of Aden, near the northern coastal town of Ras Siyyan in Djibouti.

Two other Pennsylvanians from the North Carolina-based unit were killed in the crash: Sgt. James F. Fordyce, 22, of Newtown Square, and 33-year-old Capt. Bryan D. Willard, 33, of Hummelstown.

John McColley first heard about a helicopter crash from a television news report Friday, hours before any official word came from the military.

"That news affected every member of the contingent, 40 or 50 families," McColley said in a telephone interview Sunday night. "Every family's heart sank."

McColley received official word later that night that his son, whom he called by his middle name Eric, was listed as missing. Early Saturday, he was told that his son had died in the crash.

McColley comes from a military family. His father is a former Marine. His sister, Cheryl Newbanks, spent six years in the Navy aboard the USS Enterprise. She completed her service duty about a year ago, her father said.

McColley said his son decided to join the Marines when he was a junior in high school, and that he had signed the papers in the fall of 1999. He entered the service after graduating in June 2000.

His father said McColley's enthusiasm for the military never wavered. In fact, he and his son, who would have turned 24 on June 1, spoke by telephone on Tuesday, and McColley said his son had already decided to re-up.

"He was the proudest Marine I ever met," the elder McColley said.

Fordyce, a helicopter mechanic, signed up for the Marines after graduating from Marple Newtown High School in 2001. His family declined comment Sunday night, but in 2004 his parents told the Delaware County Daily Times that he felt a strong sense of duty.

"When I asked him how he felt about it he said, 'Mom, it's like being on the football team and sitting on the bench," Margaret A. Fordyce said in December 2004. "'If you're trained to do it and you have an opportunity to do it, then you want to do it. You don't want to be sitting on the bench.'"

"I get a tear in my eye every time he puts on his dress uniform," she told the paper. "This is his job. This is what he does. That's the way we look at it."

The remains of the eight Marines and two airmen were sent back to the United States on Sunday, task force spokeswoman Maj. Susan Romano told The Associated Press by telephone from Djibouti.

February 19, 2006 11:50 PM

Rest In Peace Marines


02-20-06, 08:09 AM
Marine pilot from Wisconsin was one of those rescued after helicopter crash

(Fall Creek, Wisconsin-AP) February 19, 2006 - One of two Marines rescued from a pair of helicopters that crashed near the coast of eastern Africa is a pilot from Wisconsin.

The mother of 28-year-old Susan Craig says her daughter is "bruised and swollen," but that she suffered no broken bones.

Craig was in one of two choppers that went down Friday in the Gulf of Aden, which led to a search for ten American troops.

The military says it has accounted for the troops who went missing, but it has declined to reveal their fate until family members are notified.

Craig's mother says it took three hours for her daughter to be rescued, but says she isn't sure what caused the crash.

Posted 8:02pm by Graeme Moore