Soldier Killed In Yemen Black Hawk Crash Was Decorated Member Of Night Stalkers

Photo via DoD

The Department of Defense identified the soldier missing from a Black Hawk helicopter crash last week off the coast of Yemen as Army Staff Sgt. Emil Rivera-Lopez.

Rivera-Lopez was declared deceased after being previously listed as “duty status: whereabouts unknown,” the Pentagon said Friday in a statement.

A few hours earlier, a Pentagon spokesman said his body had not been recovered since the Aug. 25 crash — it’s not clear whether it was later found, resulting in the status change. Central Command referred questions to Army Special Operations Command, where a spokesman said he did not have that information on Saturday.

Rivera-Lopez, 31, was assigned to the elite 160th Special Operation Aviation Regiment. The unit, known as Night Stalkers, specializes in flying difficult nighttime missions, often ferrying ground special operations troops into battle.

Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Rivera-Lopez enlisted in the Army in July 2006 as a Black Hawk helicopter repairer, serving with units in the 82nd Airborne Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade, including MEDEVAC, until May 2013, according to a biography provided by Lt. Col. Robert Bockholt, a Special Operations Command spokesman. Rivera-Lopez joined the Night Stalkers in July 2013, first as a Black Hawk maintainer and squad leader, and later as a section sergeant and crew chief.

His honors and decorations include multiple awards of the Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal, including one for valor, and Army Achievement Medal. He also earned medals for service in Afghanistan and in support of the Global War on Terror, as well as an Overseas Service Ribbon, a NATO medal, Combat Action Badge, Aviation Badge and Parachutist Badge.

“We offer our condolences to the family and friends of Staff Sgt. Rivera-Lopez as we all mourn his loss today,” Bockholt said. “We are working closely with his family and will keep them in our prayers.”

The aviation regiment’s Savannah, Georgia.-based 3rd battalion will hold a memorial ceremony to honor Rivera-Lopez at Hunter Army Airfield on Tuesday afternoon, according to a Facebook post by the Night Stalker Association’s local chapter.

In addition to Rivera-Lopez, five other soldiers were in the Black Hawk when it crashed, about 20 miles off Yemen’s coast during a training flight. The five other soldiers were rescued by nearby ships, Col. John J. Thomas, spokesman for Central Command, told The Washington Post last week.

Thomas told the Post that the Black Hawk was conducting hoist training. It was just feet above the water when it lost power and went into the water, quickly rolling over. The cause of the crash is under investigation, according to the Pentagon statement.

The Pentagon said the helicopter that crashed was not involved in a combat mission. The military has a small number of troops deployed in Yemen to aid the fight against an al-Qaida group in the country. It has conducted ground raids against the terrorist group there this year, including an operation in late January in which Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William Owens was killed and an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft was destroyed after it crashed.


©2017 the Stars and Stripes. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.

Take $75 off a Casper Mattress and $150 off a Wave Mattress with code TASKANDPURPOSE

And no one knows that better than military service members and we have the pictures to prove it.

Read More Show Less
Staff Sgt. Daniel Christopher Evans was arrested on Jan. 29, 2018. (Photo courtesy of Wilmington Police Department, North Carolina.)

A special operations Marine is due in court on March 7 after being arrested last year for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, Task & Purpose has learned.

Staff Sgt. Daniel Christopher Evans was arrested and charged with assault inflicting serious injury on July 29, 2018, according to Jennifer Dandron, a spokeswoman for police in Wilmington, North Carolina. Evans is currently assigned as a Critical Skills Operator with the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, according to the Marine Corps Personnel Locator.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Elyse Ping Medvigy conducts a call-for-fire during an artillery shoot south of Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Aug. 22, 2014. Medvigy, a fire support officer assigned to the 4th Infantry Division's Company D, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, is the first female company fire support officer to serve in an infantry brigade combat team supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Houston (Photo by U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Houston)

Following Trump's inauguration, some supporters of ground combat integration assumed he would quickly move to reinstate a ban on women in jobs like the infantry. When this did not happen, advocates breathed a collective sigh of relief, and hundreds of qualified women charted a course in history by entering the newly opened occupational fields.

So earlier this week when the Wall Street Journal published an editorial against women in ground combat by conservative political commentator Heather Mac Donald, the inclination of many ground combat integration supporters was to dismiss it outright. But given Trump's proclivity to make knee jerk policy decisions in response to falling approval ratings and the court's tradition of deference to the military when it comes to policies affecting good order and discipline, it would be unwise to assume the 2016 lifting of the ban on women in ground combat is a done deal.

Read More Show Less

R. Lee Ermey was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday.

Best known for his iconic role as the Marine Corps drill instructor Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in the war drama Full Metal Jacket, Ermey died April 15, 2018 at age 74 due to complications from pneumonia, Task & Purpose previously reported.

Read More Show Less
A B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and F-22 Raptors from the Hawaii Air National Guard's 154th Wing fly near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, during a interoperability training mission Jan. 15, 2019. (U.S. Air Force/Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

The U.S. Air Force has two of its most elite aircraft — the B-2 Spirit bomber and the F-22 Raptor — training together in the Pacific, reassuring America's allies and sending a warning to strategic competitors and adversaries about the sheer power the U.S. brings to the table.

These stunning photos show the powerful aircraft tearing across the Pacific, where the U.S. has increasingly found itself facing challenges from a rising China.

Read More Show Less