Army pilot who grew up in Minnesota killed in Afghanistan

Eric Totten
Chief Warrant Officer Eric W. Totten, a native of St. Paul, was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan on May 5, 2006.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army

Eric Totten grew up in St. Paul in the Frogtown neighborhood before his family moved to Golden Valley. After high school, though, the Army was Totten's home. He enlisted in 1993, shortly after graduating. Family members say Totten wanted to do something with his life after losing a close friend to drugs and suicide.

Totten, had a great interest in flying. He became a CH-47 Chinook helicopter pilot, and his colleagues say he was good.

Chinook helicopter
A CH-47 Chinook helicopter, carrying an Army vehicle, in Afghanistan. A Chinook crashed in Afghanistan on May 5, killing 10 soldiers -- including St. Paul native Eric Totten.
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Patrick Tharpe

The Chinook is huge; it looks like a bus with huge rotors over the front and back ends. It weighs almost 12 tons empty and can carry three dozen troops, including the crew.

Calvin Dockery is also a Chinook pilot. He served with Totten in Afghanistan for six months.

"Eric was just so calm all the time. He just never seemed like he got excited, I guess. He was very level-headed, a really intelligent guy. I think the combination of the those things made him a great pilot," according to Dockery.

Totten was on his second tour of duty in Afghanistan when he died. His most recent deployment was in February.

Totten was part off the flight crew on the Chinook helicopter that went down last Friday. The military says the 10 soldiers on board died when the copter fell into a ravine during a mountaintop landing in Kunar Province.

Eric was just so calm all the time. He was very level-headed, a really intelligent guy. I think the combination of the those things made him a great pilot.

As one member of the small group of pilots who fly Chinooks, Dockery says news of the crash got his attention right away.

"You always kind of assume you may know someone in the Chinook world, but when you finally hear that it is someone you know, someone you really like, it's even worse news. It's one of those hard-to-grasp things. I've lost several friends now in action. I'm not saying I'm getting used to it, but it's not as large a shock as it used to be, I guess," Dockery said.

Dockery first met Totten about five years ago when his company joined Totten's unit at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Dockery says when he arrived, Totten was welcoming and showed him around the base. Dockery says he remembers Totten as a nice guy.

"He never seemed to ever get mad or upset," he said. "It seems like someone's always mad in the Army. But he was just always so nice. Honestly, you always hear the cliche, 'I don't remember him saying a bad thing about anybody.' I really don't remember Eric ever saying anything bad."

Dockery is sending condolences to Totten's family. Eric Totten died less than a week shy of his 35th birthday. He leaves behind a stepmother in Texas and five older brothers and sisters.