In the aftermath of the tragic events on June 8, 2022, a solemn acknowledgment has been made as we identify the five U.S. Marines who met an untimely fate during a training mission. Their lives were cut short when their aircraft crashed in the desert near Glamis, California, just outside the vibrant city of San Diego.
This poignant revelation brings to light the names and stories of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country, prompting a collective reflection on the inherent risks and sacrifices that come with military training.
The Tragic Crash of June 8, 2022, and the Valor of Five Marines
On the ill-fated day of June 8, 2022, a profound tragedy unfolded as five U.S. Marines lost their lives in a devastating aircraft crash during a routine training mission in the desert near Glamis, California, just outside of the bustling city of San Diego.
We have since identified and acknowledged the valorous service of these fallen heroes, each of whom played a crucial role in the military aviation community.
The identified Marines involved in the incident are,
Lance Cpl. Donovan Davis, 21, serving as a crew chief from Olathe, Kansas;
Sgt. Alec Langen, 23, also a crew chief hailing from Chandler, Arizona;
Capt. Benjamin Moulton, 27, a pilot whose origin is Emmett, Idaho;
Capt. Jack Casey, 26, a pilot from Dover, New Hampshire; and
Capt. Miguel Nava, 28, a pilot representing Traverse City, Michigan.
This information was provided in a news release issued on Friday by the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, offering a glimpse into the diverse backgrounds and roles of these servicemen tragically involved in the incident.
Each of the individuals involved in the tragic incident were integral members of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing’s Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, affectionately known as the Flying Tigers. This squadron, marked by camaraderie and a shared commitment to excellence, played a crucial role in military aviation, specializing in heavy-lift helicopters.
As the nation mourns the loss of these brave Marines, their legacy will endure, and their sacrifice will be remembered with gratitude and solemn respect.
Marine Profiles and Service Achievements
Lance Cpl. Donovan Davis, who enlisted in the Marine Corps in September 2019, achieved the rank of lance corporal in January. Noteworthy decorations in recognition of his service include the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and a Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.
Sgt. Alec Langen, who enlisted in September 2017 and attained the rank of sergeant in October 2022, boasts a decorated career. His accolades encompass the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and two Sea Service Deployment Ribbons.
Capt. Benjamin Moulton, commissioned into the Marine Corps in March 2019, reached the rank of captain in August 2023. His commendations include the National Defense Service Medal.
Capt. Jack Casey, commissioned into the Marine Corps in May 2019 and promoted to captain in September 2023, has been recognized with the National Defense Service Medal.
Capt. Miguel Nava, who commissioned in May 2017 and rose to the rank of captain in November 2021, holds decorations including the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and a Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.
These profiles provide a glimpse into the dedication, achievements, and decorated service of these Flying Tigers, now tragically remembered.
Recovery Efforts Commence for Marines Lost in CH-53E Super Stallion Crash
As recovery efforts are diligently underway, it was reported on Thursday that the remains of the fallen Marines are being sought following the overdue status of a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter.
The aircraft, en route from Creech Air Force Base near Las Vegas to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, triggered concerns when it failed to reach its destination as scheduled.
The gravity of the situation is underscored by the solemn words of Maj. Gen. Michael J. Borgschulte, the commanding general of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, who expressed deep respect for the pilots and crewmembers involved.
In a statement, Maj. Gen. Borgschulte emphasized the profound dedication these individuals had to a calling greater than self, highlighting their pride in serving a noble cause.
Maj. Gen. Michael J. Borgschulte said,
“These pilots and crewmembers were serving a calling greater than self and were proud to do so, We will forever be grateful for their call to duty and selfless service.”
“To the families of our fallen Marines, we send our deepest condolences and commit to ensuring your support and care during this incredibly difficult time.
Efforts to recover the remains of the Marines and equipment have begun.”
On Wednesday morning, the missing helicopter, identified as a CH-53E Super Stallion, was located in Pine Valley, a mountainous region approximately 30 miles east of the San Diego station.
The discovery marked the culmination of a multi-agency search effort, which local San Diego officials had earlier noted was challenged by adverse weather conditions, specifically heavy snowfall in the area. The challenging circumstances surrounding the search underscore the complexities faced by rescue teams as they navigated the mountainous terrain and inclement weather to locate the wreckage.
The crash, which has claimed the lives of the five U.S. Marines on board, is now subject to a thorough investigation. Authorities will scrutinize various factors, including weather conditions, mechanical aspects, and operational protocols, in an effort to determine the circumstances leading to the tragic incident.
Examining the CH-53E Super Stallion
The CH-53E Super Stallion, recognized for its heavy-lift capabilities enabling the transportation of troops and equipment, with a capacity to carry up to 16 tons of cargo, as reported by the US Navy, was the aircraft involved in this tragic incident.
The Marines on board belonged to Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, part of Marine Aircraft Group 16, as indicated by Marines Capt. Stephanie Leguizamon. The environmental conditions at the time of the crash are crucial elements under scrutiny.
Winds, gusting up to 20 mph near Pine Valley on Tuesday evening, may have been even stronger at higher elevations. Radar data reveals a substantial band of precipitation passing through the area between 10 p.m. Tuesday and 4 a.m. Wednesday, featuring rain at lower elevations and snow at higher altitudes.
The last recorded signal from the aircraft was at 11:20 p.m. Tuesday, according to Cal Fire San Diego spokesperson Mike Cornette, aligning with the period of challenging weather conditions.
The investigation into the incident will consider these factors, examining the interplay of environmental elements, operational considerations, and mechanical aspects to ascertain the precise sequence of events leading to the crash.
Tragic Incidents and Miracles at Sea
The CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters have been entangled in a series of accidents over the past decade, with at least two of them resulting in tragic fatalities.
In a devastating incident in 2016, 12 Marines lost their lives when two CH-53E helicopters collided during a night training exercise off Hawaii. The subsequent investigation attributed the crash to pilot error, underscoring the complexities and risks inherent in military training operations.
Two years later, in 2018, another fatal incident occurred when a Super Stallion crashed during a training mission near El Centro, California, claiming the lives of four crew members. These incidents shed light on the challenges faced in maintaining the safety and integrity of these heavy-lift helicopters during rigorous training exercises.
However, amidst these tragic events, there have also been instances that defied the odds. In 2014, after a training exercise in Djibouti, a CH-53E Super Stallion crashed while attempting to land on an amphibious transport dock at sea.
Miraculously, all 25 Marines and Navy sailors on board survived, marking the incident as a “miracle at sea.” These contrasting outcomes highlight the unpredictable nature of military aviation and the constant need for scrutiny and improvement in safety protocols.
As investigations into the recent crash of the Super Stallion near Pine Valley unfold, the collective knowledge from previous incidents will likely contribute to a comprehensive understanding of potential contributing factors and aid in ongoing efforts to enhance the safety and reliability of these critical military aircraft.
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