Alaska mourns fallen Guard ID's copter crew killed in Iraq By TATABOLINE BRANT Anchorage Daily News Published: January 11, 2006 Last Modified: January 11, 2006 at 06:48 PM FORT RICHARDSON -- The state flag outside the Alaska National Guard Armory here flew at half-staff in the chilly wind Tuesday as military officials gathered inside to talk about four Army Guardsmen killed in a helicopter crash Saturday in Iraq. Brig. Gen. Craig Christensen, commander of the state's Army Guard, read the names aloud somberly in a conference room on the second floor, where about a dozen reporters had gathered. "The Alaskans among the deceased soldiers include 1st Lt. Jaime Lynn Campbell, one of our female officers of Fairbanks whose hometown was Ephrata, Washington," he said, pausing between each name. "Chief Warrant Officer Chester William Troxel of Anchorage. Spec. Michael Ignatius Edwards of Anchorage. And Spec. Jacob Eugene Melson of Wasilla." The four helicopter crew members are the first Alaska Guardsmen to die in a war zone since at least World War II, and Campbell is the first female Alaska Guard member ever to die in the line of duty, officials said. They bring to eight the number of Alaskans killed in the Iraq war. "We are all deeply saddened by their deaths and express our sincere condolences to each of their families and friends," Christensen said. The Alaska Black Hawk crashed Saturday night about 12 kilometers east of Tal Afar, a city near the Syrian border that has seen heavy fighting with insurgents. The Army said it is investigating the cause. Christensen said the four Alaska crew members were transporting eight passengers from a base in Mosul to one near Tal Afar when the chopper went down in bad weather, killing all 12 aboard. Four of the eight passengers were soldiers, the Department of Defense said Tuesday. One was an Army reservist from Iowa, and the three others were stationed with the Army at Fort Carson, Colo. The remaining four were civilians whose names were not released. A second helicopter was assisting in the transport, but Christensen said he did not know if that helicopter or its crew was from Alaska or whether they witnessed the crash. Campbell, 25, and Troxel, 44, were flying the aircraft when it went down, Christensen said. Spec. Melson, 22, was the door gunner and crew chief. Edwards, 26, was the assistant door gunner and mechanic, Christensen said. All of the crew members were wearing night-vision goggles. The goggles, made to enhance vision in low- or no-light situations, make flying more difficult, but the crew had trained extensively with the equipment, Christensen said. Christensen said the Guard is providing all the help it can to the families of the dead Alaska soldiers. Guard officials are also planning a memorial service in Anchorage for the four, but details have not yet been released. The other members of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment -- the unit the dead soldiers were in -- will be provided stress counseling, officials said. The team, which left for Iraq about four months ago and now numbers 52, is not due back in Alaska until fall. Guard members in Alaska who have helped since the crash, such as those on the family notification teams, will also meet tonight to talk through all that's happened as part of a stress debriefing. Christensen said plans were under way to have Guard members accompany the bodies to their home towns. Your sacrifice will never be forgotten. Rest easy now.