Alaska National Guard crew honored in Iraq

Team was on a night mission when copter crashed near Tal Afar

Posted: Friday, January 13, 2006

MOSUL, Iraq - Aviators, Army soldiers and civilians gathered Thursday at a theater here to honor the four-person crew killed in the crash of an Alaska Army National Guard helicopter.

The crew of the UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter, which went by the call sign ICY 33, and their eight passengers, died in a crash Saturday near Tal Afar in northern Iraq. The deaths were the first Alaska Army National Guard combat deaths since Word War II.

"The ICY 33 call sign is now officially retired," Bravo company commander Capt. Cheryl L. Anderson said.

Four pairs of boots, four rifles and four aviator helmets were accompanied in a display in front of the theater by photos of each crew member: 1st Lt. Jaime Campbell of Fort Wainwright Army Post, Chief Warrant Officer Chester Troxel of Anchorage, Spc. Michael Ignatius Edwards of Anchorage and Spc. Jacob Eugene Melson of Wasilla.

"The night of Jan. 7 will not be forgotten," Anderson said. "We suffered a great loss when the crew of ICY 33 didn't come home."

The crew was part of the 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment deployed from Alaska in August and September. Forward Operating Base Q-West, south of Mosul, is the Iraq home of the battalion.

The crew was providing support for the 101st Airborne Division on a two-ship night mission when their helicopter crashed. A search team found the crash site around noon Sunday. The cause is still being investigated.

Several aviators spoke about each member of the crew.

Former Fairbanks resident Troxel, 44, lived in Anchorage with his wife, Sheree, son, Hollis, and daughter, Summer. He was described as an avid aviator. He attained his private pilot's license in 1980 and was the director of maintenance for ERA Helicopters in Anchorage for a time before deploying to Iraq.

"Chief Warrant Officer Troxel was a professional pilot, bar none," said Lt. Col. Douglas Ziemer, task force commander of the 1-10 Aviation Regiment.

Chief Warrant Officer Charles Hosack described Troxel as a dedicated family man, married for 23 years.

"And he had a strong if somewhat inaccurate right arm," Hosack said with a smile. "We all remember as a water bottle flew across the room to wake a sleeping soldier. He wanted everyone to be included."

Campbell, 25, was born in Olympia, Wash. She lived in Fairbanks with her husband, Capt. Samuel Campbell, who is also in Iraq with the 562nd Engineer Company attached to the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. They were stationed at different bases in Mosul.

Chief Warrant Officer Scott Frickson remembered Campbell for her smile and special love for her husband.

"What touched my heart and made me a better person was listening to her tell stories of her husband, Sam," he said. "When she had a bad day or if I had a bad day, I could always change the topic to Sam and the world was a beautiful place. I called it her Sammy place."

Edwards, 26, was born on the Caribbean island of Antigua, lived in Anchorage with his fiancée and his daughter, Destiny Nicole. He also has a son, Elijah, who lives in Fairbanks.

Spc. Donald Chapman remembered Edwards as his best friend, a man who loved his job and had recently re-enlisted. Edwards joined the Alaska Army National Guard in 1997. Edwards said Chapman took pride in his work and the Black Hawk for which he was crew chief.

"I remember once he told me he Armor-Alled the cockpit," Chapman said with a hint of a laugh.

Melson, 22, was born in Anchorage and lived in Wasilla. He attended the Alaska Military Youth Academy and joined the Alaska Army National Guard in 2002. He married his wife, Sarah, just weeks before deploying to Iraq in the fall.

Sgt. John Smith remembered Melson for his Alaska roots, shy smile and genuine heart.

"Jake was the guy who walked the walk," he said.

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