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Pentagon identifies six soldiers killed in Afghan helicopter crash

New information is surfacing about the soldiers killed in the single largest loss of life for foreign troops in Afghanistan in almost six months. Five of the soldiers trained together – and were based in Fort Riley in Kansas, the Pentagon announced. NBC's Rehema Ellis reports.

Five of the six U.S. soldiers who were killed in a helicopter crash this week while serving with NATO forces in Afghanistan were assigned to the same Kansas base, the Defense Department said Thursday in releasing their identities.

The six soldiers died when their Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk crashed Tuesday in Now Bahar in southern Afghanistan. The Pentagon said the crash remained under investigation.

The Pentagon identified the soldiers Wednesday as:

  • Chief Warrant Officer 2 Randy L. Billings, 34, of Heavener, Okla.
  • Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua B. Silverman, 35, of Scottsdale, Ariz. 
  • Sgt. Peter C. Bohler, 29, of Willow Spring, N.C.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Omar W. Forde, 28, of Marietta, Ga.
  • Spc. Terry K.D. Gordon, 22, of Shubuta, Miss.
  • Staff Sgt. Jesse L. Williams, 30, of Elkhart, Ind.

Billings, Silverman and Bohler were all assigned to the 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, at Fort Riley, Kan.

Forde was assigned to the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade headquarters at Fort Riley, while Gordon was with the 6th Cavalry Regiment.

Williams was assigned to the regimental support headquarters of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, based in Vilseck, Germany.

"Americans will be forever indebted to these brave soldiers who laid down their lives for our country," Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said in a statement. As we pay tribute to their service and sacrifice, we are reminded that freedom is not free."

Fort Riley is home to the 1st Infantry Division — the fabled "Big Red One," which spearheaded the U.S.-led attack on Iraq in 1991. 

"We offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of these Big Red One soldiers," said the fort's commander, Maj. Gen. Paul Funk. "We stand ready to support them, and I urge our community and nation, while remembering their sacrifices this holiday season, to do the same."

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