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UPDATE: Guardsmen grieve members of their company who died in Black Hawk helicopter crash

Updated: December 12, 2019 08:50 AM

The Minnesota National Guard has released the names of the three soldiers killed in Thursday’s Black Hawk helicopter crash.

According to the release, Chief Warrant Officer 2 James A. Rogers Jr., age 28, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Charles P. Nord, age 30, and Warrant Officer Candidate Kort M. Plantenberg, age 28, died Thursday when the helicopter went down in a farm field near Marty, Minnesota.

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All three soldiers were assigned to Company C, 2-211th General Support Aviation Battalion based in St. Cloud. The unit had returned from a nine-month deployment to the Middle East in May 2019. They had conducted medical evacuations in support of Operation Spartan Shield and Operation Inherent Resolve. 

“This is a devastating loss for the families of our deceased soldiers and our entire Minnesota National Guard family,” Adjutant Gen. Jon Jensen said during a news conference Saturday.

Jensen, who stood in the shadow of a Black Hawk helicopter, thanked the local community for its support and promised to assist the soldiers’ families in the weeks and months to come.

“What I can tell you is that you are not alone in your grief,” he said. “We stand with you as you navigate this new reality.”

Gov. Tim Walz issued a statement on the crash.

"On behalf of all Minnesotans, Gwen and I offer our deepest sympathies to the families of Chief Warrant Officer Two Charles Nord, Chief Warrant Officer Two James Rogers, and Sergeant Kort Plantenberg. They paid the ultimate price in their service to Minnesota and to the United States of America. Words will never ease the pain of this tragic loss and the state of Minnesota is forever in the debt of these warriors."

St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, a veteran, extended his condolences for the victims as well.

"These are neighbors these are our family members, our friends who live and work in our community and put on our nation's uniform as a member of the Guard,"Kleis said. "It's a very difficult thing to take as a community and our hearts just go out to those families."

Fellow soldiers grieve, remember their fallen

Standing in an aircraft hangar on Saturday, members of the Company C, 2-211th gathered to be with one another.

Maj. Bill Alms, who commands the local unit, described his men as tight knit, like family.

“Words can't explain what it's like to lose your friends,” he said during an interview. “It's been a very difficult two days.”

Maj. Nathan Burr was with the three soldiers during their latest deployment to Kuwait.

“It’s been a blur,” he said. “It's hard when you get home and the situation like this occurs because you put so much time and effort into not having this happen.”

Sgt. Nicholas Arrigoni flew with both Rogers and Nord during deployment.

“Those are my brothers, they are my friends, so to come home and have this happen, it is the worst thing you could possibly imagine,” he said.

Fellow soldiers in their unit took time Saturday to remember the best in their fallen brothers: Nord’s smile and ability to make everyone laugh, Rogers intelligence and quick wit and Plantenberg’s patience and dedication.

Parker Carignan, a friend of Nord, said about his friend, "He was the kinda guy you just felt privileged to associate with, he was a gentle person, and he always had this smile — he could bring a smile to anyone's face." 

Plantenberg's family released a statement on Sunday.

“This is a time of unimaginable loss, sadness and sorrow for our family. Kort was everything to us — a kind, loving son and brother as well as an incredibly dedicated and loyal friend, neighbor, Correctional Officer and Guardsman. It’s impossible to envision life without him.

"... We take comfort in our faith, the love of family and friends, and the knowledge that Kort died doing what he loved best: serving his country and pursuing his life-long dream to be a Black Hawk helicopter pilot."

The National Guard said it lost contact with the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter at about 2:05 p.m. Thursday while it was conducting a maintenance test flight that originated in St. Cloud.

Pilot who died in Black Hawk crash was 'the guy you felt privileged to associate with'

Investigation underway

The adjutant general said while a team of Army investigators looks into the crash, the Minnesota National Guard has grounded all Black Hawk UH-60s.

Shawn Manke serves as a senior Army aviator and is assigned as a liaison to assist in the crash inquiry.

Inspectors to revisit fatal helicopter crash scene near St. Cloud

“It’s giving everyone time to breathe and evaluate our processes and just take a break, take a pause and make sure that we’re doing things that we should be doing,” he said.

Manke said the team will gather information from “several data recording devices” on board.

The guard said it will not release the name of the pilot who was in command of the aircraft during the flight at this time.

According to a KSTP source, a mayday call came in nine or 10 minutes after it took off.

"We see them flying over three or four times a week," said Mitchell Dillmann, who lives near the crash site. "It's really sad, I've been praying for the family members."

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