2 Army National Guard soldiers killed in helicopter crash identified

Chief Warrant Officers Bryan Andrew Zemek and Derek Joshua Abbott died on Friday when their AH-64 Apache helicopter crashed in Mississippi.
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(photos courtesy Mississippi National Guard/composite by Task & Purpose)

Officials in Mississippi released the names of the two Army National Guardsmen who died Friday when their AH-64 Apache helicopter crashed on a training flight. 

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Bryan Andrew Zemek, 36, was from Oxford, Mississippi. Chief Warrant Officer 4 Derek Joshua Abbott, 42, was from Fulton, Mississippi. Zemek served as an AH-64D Apache Standardization Instructor Pilot with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment. Abbott was a Maintenance Test Pilot, serving with Delta Company of the 2nd Battalion, 151st Lakota Medical Evacuation unit. The two soldiers were both operating out of the Mississippi National Guard Army Aviation Support Facility 2 in Tupelo, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said at a press conference Saturday afternoon. 

The two were in an AH-64 Apache helicopter on a “routine training flight” according to the Mississippi National Guard when it suddenly crashed near Booneville around 2 p.m. local time on Friday. No cause for the crash has been announced. 

 “Like all accidents, this incident is under investigation. We are not at liberty to discuss any details of the accident during an ongoing investigation,” Maj. Gen. Janson D. Boyles, adjutant general of Mississippi, said at the press conference. “Our paramount concern at this time is to ensure proper casualty assistance is available to support the surviving family members through this difficult time. The Mississippi National Guard is family. In fact, the National Guard is family. Our hearts are truly broken at the loss of these two members of our family.”

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Zemek’s military awards during his service include the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with three bronze oak leaf clusters and the Senior Army Aviator Badge, among others. 

Abbott, a combat veteran who served in Iraq, was awarded, in part, the Air Medal with Valor, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with two bronze oak leaf clusters and the Senior Army Aviator Badge. 

Friday’s fatal crash comes after other deadly incidents involving helicopters on training missions. Last year saw two U.S. Army Apache helicopters collide in Alaska on their way back from maneuvers, killing three soldiers. In another incident in Kentucky, two Black Hawk helicopters with the 101st Airborne Division crashed, killing nine soldiers.

 “I want to once again pay tribute to the lives of Chief Warrant Officer 4 Zemek and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Abbott,” Reeves said at the press conference. “Our state owes them a debt that can never be fully repaid. Their service to our state and our nation will not be forgotten, and we remain thankful for their comrades in arms who continue to serve, as they did, with honor and distinction.”

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