Former Army Specialist talks training with night vision goggles after deadly helicopter crash

Army identifies the fallen soldiers

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) — Governor Andy Beshear has ordered flags to half-staff in honor of the nine Fort Campbell soldiers killed in a helicopter crash during a training mission on Wednesday night.

Five service members were in one helicopter and four were in the other conducting a multi-shift formation under night vision goggles when the helicopter crash occurred.

On Friday the Army identifying the 9 soldiers as,
  • Chief Warrant Officer 2 Zachary Esparza,
  • Warrant Officer 1 Jeffery Barnes,
  • Cpl. Emilie Marie Eve Bolanos,
  • Warrant Officer 1 Aaron Healy,
  • Staff Sgt. Joshua C. Gore, Sgt. David Solinas Jr.,
  • Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rusten Smith,
  • Staff Sgt. Taylor Mitchell and
  • Sgt. Isaac John Gayo

Meantime, Army officials adding that the nine fallen soldiers were taking part night training, using night vision goggles, something former Army Specialist Dee Birkes recalls when he was a paratrooper.

“We use a lot of night vision goggles, um, once we hit the ground. Um, and, you know, it does affect your peripheral vision, at some certain extent, but the technology, I mean, this is the best, this is the best country in the world, and as far as the technology, night vision, the safety protocols, um, they, it just leaps and bounds from everybody else. And, and the equipment, is a lot better than lot what people think, you know, even being at nighttime. So you’d be surprised on what you can see through those and, and how capable a mission can be,” says Birkes.

He says using the night vision goggles is not anything new or out of the ordinary, especially when they train in a black hawk helicopter.

“Even being a paratrooper, I, I’ve been in two or three, in training and actually we used to do some training with the 101st flying from Fort Bragg and jump, over at Fort Campbell and do some training with the 101st, so I’ve seen the Black Hawks in action,” he says.

Birkes adds that seeing the news out of Fort Campbell and the immense loss to the military community was even more tragic considering the black hawk is their preferred aircraft for the convenience.

“So many safety features in place, for these helicopters. And when, when ever you hear one going down, something catastrophic has had to happen,” he adds

With the cause still unknown, and the entire nation wrapping their arms in prayer for the fallen soldiers, “my heart goes out to their families, all the loved ones. Because, you know, knowing they’re back in the States and they’re not in a combat, you just don’t think anything like this is gonna happen. At least when you’re in a combat zone, there’s always that chance. But it’s just, it’s so unexpected and so sad and, and I’m just praying for their families.,” said Birkes.