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2 soldiers in fatal National Guard helicopter crash at US-Mexico border identified

Chief Warrant Officers Casey N. Frankoski and John Grassia died on Friday, March 8 when their helicopter crash near the U.S.-Mexico border.
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Chief Warrant Officers Casey N. Frankoski and John Grassia. (Photo courtesy New York Army National Guard)

The New York National Guard released the names of the two Army National Guard soldiers who died on Friday when their UH-72 Lakota helicopter crashed in La Grulla, Texas only a few miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Casey N. Frankoski, 28, was from Rensselaer, New York. Chief Warrant Officer 2 John Grassia, 30, was from Schenectady, New York. The two died Friday, March 8 when the helicopter crashed in a rural part of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas near the border. According to the National Guard, the UH-72 Lakota helicopter was on an aerial reconnaissance mission.

The helicopter had two other passengers. A Border Patrol agent also died in the crash, but has not been identified. A third National Guard soldier was injured in the crash. The National Guard did not name the soldier, citing privacy concerns, but identified him as the aircraft’s crew chief. Local New York news outlet the Times Union reports that the survivor is Jacob Pratt, citing confirmation from Rensselaer Mayor Michael Stammel. New York Attorney General Letitia James also named Pratt as the survivor of the crash. 

Both Frankoski and Grassia were serving with Detachment 2, A Company, of the 1st Battalion, 244th Aviation Regiment. They were participating with the federal government’s border mission as part of Joint Task Force North, which is separate from the state of Texas’ own border operation. The New York Army National Guard has been sending soldiers and personnel to work in the federal border mission for the last decade. 

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The UH-72 Lakota helicopter belonged to the District of Columbia National Guard, according to the New York National Guard. No cause of the crash has been identified and the incident is under investigation.

“We are all shocked and devastated by the loss of Chief Warrant Officer 2 Grassia, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Frankoski, while serving along the U.S. border in Texas,” Major General Ray Shields, adjutant general of New York, said in a statement.

Frankoski joined the New York Army National Guard in 2016 and trained to be a UH-60 Black Hawk pilot. She previously deployed to Kuwait in 2018, staying there for almost a year. During her service she was awarded, among others, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, 

Grassia joined the New York Army National Guard in 2013. Initially he was a Black Hawk maintenance specialist then trained to be a pilot for the helicopter. He deployed to Kuwait in 2013 and was there for a year. From 2020-2022 he was on state active duty participating in the guard’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the state. He was awarded, in part, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the Basic Aviator Badge.

Friday’s crash was the latest in several fatal military helicopter mishaps this year. Two deadly incidents last month saw five Marines killed in California and a pair of Army National Guard soldiers killed in Mississippi. 

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