Minnesota native killed in Afghan helicopter crash

Jonah D. McClellan
An Army carry team carries the transfer case containing the remains of Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonah D. McClellan of Minn., upon arrival at Dover Air Force Base, Del. on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010. The Department of Defense says McClellan was killed in a helicopter crash in Zabul province, southern Afghanistan on Tuesday.
AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

Five members of the 101st Airborne Division are among the nine American troops killed in a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan, the military said Wednesday.

The five were assigned to the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, which deployed in March, said Fort Campbell spokesman Rick Rzepka.

The crash Tuesday was the worst coalition helicopter crash in Afghanistan in four years.

Killed from the 101st were Maj. Robert F. Baldwin, 39, of Muscatine, Iowa; Chief Warrant Officer Matthew G. Wagstaff, 34, of Orem, Utah; Chief Warrant Officer Jonah D. McClellan, 26; Staff Sgt. Joshua D. Powell, 25, of Pleasant Plains, Ill.; and Sgt. Marvin R. Calhoun Jr., 23, of Elkhart, Ind. The military said McClellan was from St. Louis Park, Minn.; his father said his son grew up near Battle Ground, Wash.

The cause of the crash was not immediately clear. NATO said there were no reports of enemy fire at the time in the Daychopan district of Zabul province, where the crash took place.

However, the Taliban have claimed that insurgents shot down the helicopter. The Taliban often exaggerate their claims and sometimes take credit for accidents.

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Four members of the Navy also were killed.

They were 29-year-old Lt. Brendan Looney of Owings, Md., 30-year-old Senior Chief Petty Officer David McLendon of Thomasville, Ga., 26-year-old Petty Officer 2nd Class Adam Smith of Hurland, Mo., and 24-year-old Petty Officer 3rd Class Denis Miranda of Toms River, N.J.

Commanding General of the 101st Airborne Division, Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell, said in a statement that his thoughts and prayers went out to the families of the nine killed.

"I want to particularly extend my personal sympathies to the families and soldiers of Task Force Destiny who lost five Screaming Eagles in the crash," he said. "We will never forget their service and sacrifice, and I am comforted in knowing Fort Campbell and our great neighbors in Clarksville, Hopkinsville and Oak Grove will reach out to these families during this time of grief."

Tuesday's crash was the deadliest since May 2006, when a Chinook helicopter went down while attempting a nighttime landing on a small mountaintop in eastern Kunar province, killing 10 U.S. soldiers.

Rod McClellan said his son was a Blackhawk helicopter pilot with the 101st, but that the Army wasn't clear whether his son was piloting the helicopter at the time of the crash.

"He was at the controls, whether as a co-pilot or pilot, I don't know," he said.

McClellan said his son had been involved in a variety of missions, such as medical recovery, transporting troops and dropping ammunition.

"I think what he told us was filtered. He was very, very excited about everything about it - as far as just getting behind that stick, every time was like the first time," McClellan said.

"Anything tough he didn't tell us - close calls or being fired on, he never told us that stuff," McClellan said.

The 101st Combat Aviation Brigade is one of two such units under the 101st Airborne Division based at Fort Campbell. Almost all the 20,000 soldiers from the division are deployed to Afghanistan.

Including this crash, 11 soldiers from the installation on the Kentucky-Tennessee state line have died this month in Afghanistan.


Associated Press Writer Kathy McCarthy in Seattle contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)