Military Considering Promotions For Airmen Killed In Iraq Helo Crash

New York National Guard

Dashan Briggs, a National Guard aviator from Port Jefferson Station who was killed last week in a helicopter crash in Iraq along with three other members of the 106th Air Rescue Wing, has been posthumously promoted to the rank of technical sergeant, according to a Guard spokesman in Albany.

Spokesman Richard Goldenberg said the other three members of the 106th who perished — Capt. Andreas B. O’Keeffe, 37, of Center Moriches, Capt. Christopher T. Zanetis, 37, of Long Island City, Queens, and Master Sgt. Christopher J. Raguso, 39, of Commack — also have been recommended for posthumous promotion.

Briggs, 30, held the rank of staff sergeant when he died.

The airmen, based at Gabreski airfield in Westhampton Beach, were among seven U.S. service members killed March 15 when their helicopter crashed near the Syrian border in western Iraq. Military officials said the crash did not appear to be caused by hostile fire.

Members of the 106th — who specialize in rescuing downed aircrews and other American forces trapped behind enemy lines — were sent to Iraq in late January in support of American efforts to confront ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

The bodies of the airmen are currently at the Defense Department mortuary at Dover, Delaware, and are not expected to arrive on Long Island until sometime next week, according to National Guard officials.

The promotion recommendations for Briggs’ three comrades must go through a different approval process because of their higher ranks — a process that has not yet been completed, Goldenberg added.

“There is no prediction right now of how long those promotion requests may take as they are processed down at the Pentagon,” Goldenberg said in an emailed statement.

Those procedures are governed by Air Force instructions, which are different for officers and enlisted personnel, based on time in grade, years of service, military education, and their commander’s recommendation, Goldenberg said.

Briggs’ family could not be reached for comment Friday.

At the time of his death, Briggs was on leave from Newsday, where he worked as a security guard, according to the company’s human resources department.

Briggs joined the 106th as a part-time soldier in 2010, according to the National Guard, and had been on military leave from Newsday since he left for higher-level training at Lackland Air Force Base in February 2014.

Last week’s helicopter crash in Iraq, which came just shy of 15 years to the day after President George W. Bush first sent troops to Iraq in 2003, serves as a grim reminder that local National Guard members continue to serve in harm’s way.

Two days after the crash in Iraq, some 330 members of the Yonkers-based 101st Expeditionary Signal Battalion left to train for a deployment to Afghanistan scheduled within the next few weeks, Goldenberg said.

Goldenberg said more than 100 New York Guard members are currently serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, including 106th Rescue colleagues of the soldiers who perished last week. Goldenberg said there are more than 100 New York Army National Guard soldiers now serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Some 200 New York Air Force National Guard members, which include members of the 106th Air Rescue Wing, “are serving overseas in support of contingency operations,” he said, although he did not specify how many of them are in Iraq or Afghanistan.


©2018 Newsday. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Every once in a while, we run across a photo in The Times-Picayune archives that's so striking that it begs a simple question: "What in the name of Momus Alexander Morgus is going on in this New Orleans photograph?" When we do, we've decided, we're going to share it — and to attempt to answer that question.

Read More Show Less
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces control the monitor of their drone at their advanced position, during the fighting with Islamic State's fighters in Nazlat Shahada, a district of Raqqa. (Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)

MUSCAT (Reuters) - The United States should keep arming and aiding the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) following the planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria, provided the group keeps up the pressure on Islamic State, a senior U.S. general told Reuters on Friday.

Read More Show Less

President Donald Trump claims the $6.1 billion from the Defense Department's budget that he will now spend on his border wall was not going to be used for anything "important."

Trump announced on Friday that he was declaring a national emergency, allowing him to tap into military funding to help pay for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Read More Show Less

Long before Tony Stark took a load of shrapnel to the chest in a distant war zone, science fiction legend Robert Heinlein gave America the most visceral description of powered armor for the warfighter of the future. Forget the spines of extra-lethal weaponry, the heads-up display, and even the augmented strength of an Iron Man suit — the real genius, Heinlein wrote in Starship Troopers, "is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it, like your clothes, like skin."

"Any sort of ship you have to learn to pilot; it takes a long time, a new full set of reflexes, a different and artificial way of thinking," explains Johnny Rico. "Spaceships are for acrobats who are also mathematicians. But a suit, you just wear."

First introduced in 2013, U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) purported to offer this capability as America's first stab at militarized powered armor. And while SOCOM initially promised a veritable Iron Man-style tactical armor by 2018, a Navy spokesman told Task & Purpose the much-hyped exoskeleton will likely never get off the launch pad.

"The prototype itself is not currently suitable for operation in a close combat environment," SOCOM spokesman Navy Lt. Phillip Chitty told Task & Purpose, adding that JATF-TALOS has no plans for an external demonstration this year. "There is still no intent to field the TALOS Mk 5 combat suit prototype."

Read More Show Less

D-Day veteran James McCue died a hero. About 500 strangers made sure of it.

"It's beautiful," Army Sgt. Pete Rooney said of the crowd that gathered in the cold and stood on the snow Thursday during McCue's burial. "I wish it happened for every veteran's funeral."

Read More Show Less