The victims of the crash are 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. Andrew P. Southard, 27, of Apache Junction, Arizona; and Sgt. Cade M. Wolfe, 24, of Mankato, Minnesota.
The five soldiers were part of the Army's Special Operations Command and assigned to 1st Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). A senior defense official wouldn't say whether that the unit was in the area to support Israel but did say that they were "there in response to the dynamic security environment in the region."
The official said that "there is currently a contingent of U.S. military forces, including planning and logistics experts to support U.S. preparedness, to ensure the safety and security of American citizens in the region if needed."
The Pentagon announced the crash Saturday afternoon but did not release details. The statement from U.S. European Command simply said that "a U.S. military aircraft conducting training operations in the eastern Mediterranean suffered a mishap and went down." The statement did stress, though, that "the aircraft sortie was purely related to training and there are no indications of hostile activity."
On Monday, the Army confirmed the Black Hawk was conducting aerial refueling training when "the aircraft experienced an in-flight emergency, resulting in the crash."
The Army's Combat Readiness Center is conducting an investigation into the incident, the Pentagon said.
President Joe Biden said Sunday that he was mourning the loss of the five soldiers, adding that "their daily bravery and selflessness is an enduring testament to what is best in our nation."
"Jill and I are praying for the families and friends who have lost a precious loved one -- a piece of their soul," he added.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also released a statement Sunday saying that the incident was "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."
Lt. Gen. Jonathan Braga, the head of Army Special Operations Command, said that the crash was "devastating news that reverberates across the entire special operations community."
Braga said that the victims "hail from rare patriotic families with deep military service ties that span multiple generations and formations" and that "every loss is tough, but in this case, service to the nation is truly a family business and it's hard to express the amount of sorrow that we all feel right now."
Dwyer, the most senior soldier on the aircraft and one of its pilots, started out his career as an artillery officer before becoming a helicopter pilot and warrant officer.
His decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, a Meritorious Service Medal, and an Air Medal with combat device, as well as multiple personal, service and campaign awards.
Barnes, the other pilot of the Black Hawk, had been with the 160th since 2016. The Army statement said that in 2020 "he fully dedicated himself to the organization and his profession by resigning his commission and becoming a warrant officer."
His decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross with valor device and Air Medal with combat device, as well as multiple personal, service and campaign awards.
Grone enlisted in the Army in 2017 as a Black Hawk repairer and was assigned to the 160th in 2018. He served as a flight instructor and crew chief for the MH-60M.
Grone's awards and decorations include the Air Medal with combat device and the Army Achievement Medal with combat device, as well as multiple service ribbons and campaign awards.
According to the Army, Dwyer, Barnes and Grone all deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan with the 160th "and supported several no-notice deployments and exercises worldwide in support of national security objectives."
Southard enlisted in the Army in 2015 as a Black Hawk repairer and was first assigned to the 1st Armored Division's Combat Aviation Brigade at Fort Bliss, Texas, before moving to Fort Campbell's 101st Combat Aviation Brigade. He arrived at the 160th in 2023, where he served as an MH-60M crew chief.
His awards include two Army Commendation Medals and Army Achievement Medal, as well as multiple service ribbons and campaign awards. He also deployed to Afghanistan with the 1st Armored Division Combat Aviation Brigade.
Finally, Wolfe enlisted in the Army in 2018 as a Black Hawk repairer and was initially assigned to the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade at Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii, before coming to the 160th as an MH-60M crew chief.
His awards include two Army Commendation Medals and an Army Achievement Medal, as well as multiple service ribbons.
Col. Roger Waleski Jr., who is the commander of the 160th, said that all five men "were truly SOF professionals and are among the nation's finest soldiers."
"Their loss has left an indelible void within this regiment that will never be filled," he said in a released statement.
-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on X at @ktoropin.