Dedicated to the Preservation of the
U.S. Air Force Helicopter History
Benjamin D. White, Sr. Amn., USAF (Fallen)October 16, 1985 – June 09, 2010
Air Force Senior Airman Benjamin D. White 24, of Erwin, Tenn. died June 9, 2010 serving during Operation Enduring Freedom; assigned to the 48th Rescue Squadron, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.; died June 9, near FOB Jackson, Afghanistan, in a HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter crash. Also killed were Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael P. Flores, Air Force 1st Lt. Joel C. Gentz and Air Force Staff Sgt. David C. Smith. Capt. David A. Wisniewski died July 2 at National Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., due to injuries suffered in the crash.
Schwartz mourns airmen killed in medevac crash
By Scott Fontaine
The Pentagon has named the four rescue airmen who were killed June 9 when insurgents shot down their HH-60G Pave Hawk in southern Afghanistan.
Three airmen also were injured in the Pave Hawk incident, which occurred on the deadliest day for Air Force personnel at war in more than five years.
The four killed are:
* 1st Lt. Joel C. Gentz, 25, of Grass Lake, Mich.
* Staff Sgt. David C. Smith, 26, of Eight Mile, Ala.
* Tech. Sgt. Michael P. Flores, 31, of San Antonio.
* Senior Airman Benjamin D. White, 24, of Erwin, Tenn.
Flores and White were assigned to the 48th Rescue Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. Gentz was assigned to the 58th Rescue Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Smith was assigned to the 66th Rescue Squadron at Nellis.
The wounded airmen are members of the 66th Rescue Squadron. They are being treated at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany.
The helicopter crashed as the airmen, assigned to 563rd Rescue Group, were performing a medical-evacuation mission in turbulent Helmand province.
“Our Air Force was deeply saddened by the loss of four of our own,” Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said in a statement. “Faithful to the rescue motto ‘That others may live,’ these airmen were courageously and selflessly flying in support of their joint and coalition teammates. We grieve for our warriors and our thoughts and prayers are with their families, as well as with the airmen still recovering.”
Col. Gary Henderson, the 23rd Wing commander said in a statement: “Our hearts go out to the families of these brave Americans, and we express our deepest condolences to them. All seven airmen involved in this incident embody the rescue motto, ‘These things we do, that others may live,’ and were on a life-saving mission.
“These airmen and their other rescue teammates are highly trained to perform life-saving missions in various situations. Protecting our nation’s sons and daughters is a sacred trust and we take that responsibility seriously.”
The last time four or more airmen died in a single day was May 30, 2005, when a prop plane crashed in Diyala province, Iraq. A fifth passenger, Iraqi Air Force Capt. Ali Abass, also died in that crash.
It was the bloodiest day in Afghanistan for the Air Force since Nov. 23, 2003, when four airmen were killed in a helicopter crash in Parwan province, according to icasualties.org, a website that tracks coalition deaths overseas.
The helicopter was providing support to British troops at the time of the attack, according to The New York Times. The newspaper, quoting a Taliban spokesman, said insurgents shot down the helicopter over the Sangin district bazaar with a rocket-propelled grenade.
“It’s a big deal every time we lose someone,” Brig. Gen. Frderick B. Hodges, one of the top American commanders in southern Afghanistan, told The Washington Post. “But this is more of a jolt. The medevac crews are some of the bravest people in the world. Just by the nature of what they do, they’re always moving into danger.”
Flores, a 32-year-old pararescueman, had earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and deployed eight times during his 12 years in the service. White, a 24-year-old pararescueman, had served in the Air Force since July 2006 and was on his first deployment.
Gentz, 25, a combat rescue officer, studied aerospace engineering at Purdue University and enrolled in ROTC because he wanted to be a pilot and perform combat recue, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Smith, 26, was a flight engineer who had deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan during his nine-year career.
Medevac crash victims returned home
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. — The transfer team’s steps were meticulously synchronized. Their white gloves were spotless. The flag wrapped around each case was tight, each with an identical number of stars and stripes showing.
They said little — just a few orders, barely audible over the clanging rotors of the Boeing 747. The Air Force chief of staff held a sharp salute as they walked by. The service secretary held his hand over his heart.
Four of their colleagues were killed two days earlier, when insurgents shot down their HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter during a medical-evacuation mission in southern Afghanistan. And on June 11, the fallen returned to the U.S.; their remains were met here with full honors.
The Air Force transfer team first carried the flag-draped case containing the remains of Lt. Joel C. Gentz, a combat rescue officer who enrolled in ROTC because he wanted to be a pilot and fly rescue missions, from a hydraulic lift to a waiting cargo van.
Next came the body of Tech. Sgt. Michael P. Flores, a pararescueman who had previously been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and had served overseas eight times in 12 years.
And then Staff Sgt. David C. Smith, a flight engineer who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan during his nine-year Air Force career.
And, lastly, Senior Airman Benjamin D. White, a pararescueman on his first deployment.
Their helicopter crashed in Helmand province, leaving three other airmen injured and leading to the Air Force’s deadliest day at war in more than five years. The remains of Lance Cpl. Michael G. Plank, a Marine killed in Helmand province on June 9, also made the trip from Germany.
Fellow pararescuemen escorted the remains from Germany and snapped a salute as the cases were moved from the plane to a hydraulic lift. The lift was lowered, and the transfer teams solemnly walked each case to one of two waiting cargo vans. Family members stood near the tail of the jet and watched.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz and Secretary Michael Donley didn’t provide a statement or take questions from the handful of reporters here — standard procedure for the event, known to the Air Force as a dignified transfer. And a port mortuary spokeswoman wasn’t sure the last time such an event drew the service’s top uniformed and civilian officials.
But the Air Force hadn’t lost four or more airmen since May 30, 2005, when a prop plane crashed in Diyala province, Iraq. The incident killed four American airmen and an Iraqi officer.
The Pave Hawk carrying the pararescuemen crashed in the Sangin district of Helmand as it was providing support for British troops. A Taliban spokesman told the New York Times that insurgents shot it down with a rocket-propelled grenade.
‘He finally felt a sense of purpose’
The Associated Press
Benjamin White’s job — flying in on a helicopter to rescue soldiers wounded in battle — was embodied in the tattoo on his back. It was a Bible verse that read: “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for a friend.”
His father, Anthony White, recalled White as a somewhat aimless teenager who found what he truly wanted to do in the Air Force. The airman’s grandfather, Curtis White, recalled that the young man started lifting weights so he’d be ready for the military’s challenge.
“He said he finally felt a sense of purpose — that he was doing what he was supposed to do,” said his sister-in-law, Ashlee White.
White, 24, of Erwin, Tenn., was killed June 9 in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. He was assigned to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. He graduated from Science Hill High School in 2004 and spent a few semesters at East Tennessee State University before enlisting in 2006.
Family and friends said White was always worried about everyone else — even though he was in danger. Ashlee White said her brother-in-law was the one praying for everyone back home. His supervisor, Staff Sgt. Jason Walker, said White always asked: “What can I do to help?”
White also is survived by his mother, Brenda Shelton-Logozo, and his stepmother, Jennifer White.