5 killed in Black Hawk crash in Afghanistan

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SAVANNAH, Ga. - The U.S. Army has identified the five-member crew killed when their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed during a training mission last week in Kandahar.

The crew was flying March 11 using night-vision goggles and Army Maj. Gen. Robert A. Abrams has said no enemy attacks were reported.

The five crew members trained at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, which falls under the command of Fort Stewart, Ga. They were identified as: Staff Sgt. Steven P. Blass of Estherville, Iowa; Chief Warrant Officer Bryan J. Henderson of Franklin, La.; Capt. Sara M. Knutson of Eldersburg, Md.; Staff Sgt. Marc A. Scialdo of Naples, Fla.; and Spc. Zachary L. Shannon of Dunedin, Fla.

At 31, Scialdo was the oldest of the crew and a Black Hawk section chief. He joined the Army in January 2003 and arrived at the unit in January 2012. His mother, Susan Scialdo, previously told The Associated Press that the soldier made his family so proud he was nicknamed "the Golden Boy."

"He made our family shine," the 31-year-old soldier's mother, Susan Scialdo, said Friday. "He lifted us all. He was just an awesome individual. Always helpful, always shining."

Spc. Zachary L. Shannon, 21, volunteered for a deployment to Afghanistan and had no qualms about doing so, even if it ultimately meant giving his life.
"Zach said, 'I'd do it. For me to go over, that means another service member can come home to their family,'" his mother, Kim Allison, said Sunday. "It blew me away that someone so young could think so unselfishly."

Shannon loved fishing and his Tampa Bay-area sports teams, and he planned on a military career. He was in ROTC in high school, and he always wanted to fly Black Hawk helicopters, his parents said Sunday.

Shannon knew the risks of serving in Afghanistan and while he was home before his deployment, he talked with his mother about his last wishes. He wanted to be buried in Dunedin instead of Arlington National Cemetery, and so the family has a memorial planned next week at a local VFW post.

Lynn Knutson said she received an email from her daughter, a Black Hawk pilot, the night she died: "Got to go mom, got to go fly," the email said.

Knutson said she hasn't been told whether her daughter was piloting when the helicopter crashed. She had previously been deployed to Pakistan on a humanitarian mission, flying helicopters to help flood victims.

A ceremony is planned at Fort Stewart in April to honor the soldiers.

The cause of the crash is being investigated.

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