Hawaii Post Loses 10 Soldiers in Copter Crash Ten of the 14 soldiers killed Wednesday in a helicopter crash in Iraq were based at Schofield Barracks in Honolulu. The unit's commander says the entire community is grieving.
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Hawaii Post Loses 10 Soldiers in Copter Crash

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Hawaii Post Loses 10 Soldiers in Copter Crash

Hawaii Post Loses 10 Soldiers in Copter Crash

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Wednesday's Black Hawk helicopter crash in Northern Iraq killed 14 American soldiers. Four were assigned to the 6th Air Calvary Regiment in Fort Lewis, Washington, the other 10 served in the 25th Infantry Division from Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.

As Kayla Rosenfeld of Hawaii Public Radio reports, people there are mourning the loss of the servicemen stationed there.

KAYLA ROSENFELD: Seven thousand soldiers from Schofield Barracks are currently deployed in Iraq. Most left Hawaii in August for what was meant to be the unit's second yearlong tour. But in April, their combat deployment was extended to 15 months.

Colonel Tim Ryan is the unit's commander, standing next to the barracks war memorial on Thursday, he said the entire community is grieving.

Colonel TIM RYAN (Commander, U.S. 25th Infantry Division): When we lose just one life, we're reminded of the tremendous sacrifice of America's sons and daughters in their service to the nation. And when we magnify that loss by 10, it just has a rippling and chilling effect across our community.

ROSENFELD: Hawaii troops have suffered the two deadliest helicopter crashes of the Iraq war. In January 2005, a transport helicopter went down in a sand storm in Western Iraq killing 27 Marines assigned to Kaneohe Marine Base on the windward coast of Oahu. Schofield Barracks on Oahu's north shore has been an integral part of that community since the 1920s. General Patton played polo there and during the Vietnam War, the base was one of the country's largest training facilities. The neighboring town of Waialua also depends on the Military for its livelihood.

(Soundbite of traffic)

ROSENFELD: Herman Higgins(ph) owns a computer shop in Waialua and has seen some soldiers through two and three deployments.

Mr. HERMAN HIGGINS (Computer Shop Owner, Waialua): It's always a pleasure when I see them coming back from Iraq or Afghanistan and they're still alive, and they're not limping. These kids are very brave, very dedicated. But they're professionals. That's, you know, that's what they do for a living so that goes along with the territory, but it really hits the families hard.

ROSENFELD: Down the block from the computer shop in Casey's(ph) Barber Shop, men and women are waiting for a haircut. The cramped salon is crowded and noisy. After a 15-minute wait, Sergeant Keith Scott finally gets his turn in the chair. The South Carolina native just returned from his second tour in Iraq last month.

Sergeant KEITH SCOTT (U.S. Army): Sometimes I think that we shouldn't be over there, I think we should not be extended from 12 to 15 months. It's all about the numbers and my pain is you have to go over there to advance your career, that's just the sad fact of it.

ROSENFELD: As officials begin to notify families of their fallen soldiers, Army Community Service volunteers, like Kansas native Jennifer James, are gathering their strength. Her job is to reach out to military spouses and to help them cope with uncertainty and, if necessary, news of injury and casualty.

Ms. JENNIFER JAMES (Army Community Service Volunteer): You always offer your condolences, I mean that's a given. But sometimes you don't know how the spouse is going to react whether they're going to be resentful because it, you know, you still have a soldier over there. So, you just have to be very cautious, take your lead from the person who is affected by this. Hug them, pray for them, and just be there if they need you.

ROSENFELD: For NPR News. I'm Kayla Rosenfeld.

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