By Kimberly Hefling
The Associated Press
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. - The four soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan were members of an elite aviation regiment based at Fort Campbell, military officials said Friday.
The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment was one of the first units deployed to fight in Operation Enduring Freedom, America's war on terrorism.
"These men gave their lives in the defense of freedom, doing what they loved most, flying with the 160th," Lt. Col. Emmett Shaffer, the regiment's deputy commander, said Friday. "I ask for your prayers, both for those we have lost, and those who continue our mission."
The four soldiers were identified as Chief Warrant Officer Mark S. O'Steen, 43, of Alabama; Chief Warrant Officer Thomas J. Gibbons, 31, of Maryland; Staff Sgt. Daniel L. Kisling Jr., 31, Missouri; and Sgt. Gregory M. Frampton, 37, of California. Hometowns were not released, but family members said Kisling was originally from Neosho, Mo.
The special operations helicopter went down Thursday night seven miles east of the Bagram Air Base while on a training mission.
The cause was under investigation.
It was the deadliest day for the American military in Afghanistan since March 4, when seven soldiers were killed and 11 wounded at the outset of Operation Anaconda against remnant Taliban and al-Qaida forces.
O'Steen and Gibbons were pilots. Kisling and Frampton were maintenance crewmen.
Kisling, the crew chief, is survived by a wife, Georgie, who is pregnant, and three children ranging in age from 13 to 3. The family lives at Fort Campbell, said Kisling's brother-in-law, Jon McNeill, 40, of Windsor.
McNeill said his sister and Kisling began dating in high school in Neosho, Mo. - where Kisling's parents, Daniel and Velinda, still live.
Kisling had been in the United States for Christmas and had returned to Afghanistan less than a month ago for his second assignment to the country since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, McNeill said.
As a crew chief, McNeill said Kisling was responsible for maintaining the helicopter. McNeill said the family knew only sketchy details about Kisling's work and where he was stationed because he was in special operations.
The 160th, based at Fort Campbell on the Tennessee border, slips special forces commandos behind enemy lines.
It earned the nickname Night Stalkers because of its ability to strike - often using night vision technology - undetected in darkness and extreme conditions.
"Our mission as soldiers is inherently dangerous," Shaffer said. "It does not make our loss easier, but it is a reality that we face every day."
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Four killed in crash were part of elite Fort Campbell regiment