The Army Saturday morning identified the five soldiers killed Thursday in a helicopter crash while on a peacekeeping mission in the Sinai.
Capt. Seth Vernon Vandekamp, 31, from Katy, Texas, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dallas Gearld Garza, 34, from Fayetteville, North Carolina, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Marwan Sameh Ghabour, 27, from Marlborough, Massachusetts, Staff Sgt. Kyle Robert McKee, 35, from Painesville, Ohio and Sgt. Jeremy Cain Sherman, 23, from Watseka, Illinois, were among seven killed when the helicopter crashed.
A French and Czech service member were also killed in the crash, officials said.
The Czech Republic’s military confirmed one of the fatalities of the Black Hawk’s crash was Czech Sgt. Maj. Michaela Ticha. French military officials identified lieutenant-colonel Sébastien Botta as the French casualty.
One U.S. service member was also injured in the crash, but has not been identified.
A defense official told Military Times on Thursday that there is “zero indication of malicious activity” involved in the crash.
An Egyptian official said the UH-60 Black Hawk was on a reconnaissance mission and crashed near the island of Tiran, apparently because of a technical failure. MFO officials said an investigation was underway but gave no further details.
Vandekamp was an Army doctor assigned to a medical company under Task Force Sinai.
He joined the Army after graduating from A.T. Still University Medical School in 2017. This was his first overseas assignment, arriving in Egypt this October.
Garza was a UH-60 Black Hawk pilot assigned to Task Force Sinai’s aviation company. Originally from Fayetteville, North Carolina, he enlisted in the Army in 2005, commissioned in 2010 and arrived in Egypt in January.
Garza’s previous overseas assignments include tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. His Iraq campaign medal includes an Arrowhead Device, meaning he participated in a helicopter assault, parachute jump or amphibious assault in the combat zone.
Ghabour was also a UH-60 Black Hawk pilot assigned to Task Force Sinai’s aviation company. The Arlington, Massachusetts native commissioned as a warrant officer in 2018. This was his first overseas assignment, arriving in Egypt in January.
McKee was a UH-60 helicopter repairer assigned to Task Force Sinai’s aviation company. The Painesville, Ohio native first enlisted in 2003 and arrived in Egypt this July.
His previous overseas tours include time in Korea, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Sherman was a UH-60 crew chief assigned to Task Force Sinai’s aviation company. Originally from Wateska, Illinois, he enlisted in 2015 and arrived in Egypt this October. His previous overseas assignments include tours in Korea and Afghanistan.
In a statement on Thursday, acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller offered condolences.
“Yesterday we recognized the sacrifice of millions of American veterans who have defended our nation for generations, and today we are tragically reminded of the last full measure our uniformed warriors may pay for their service,” Miller said in a statement released by the Pentagon.
“I extend the Department’s condolences to the families, friends and teammates of these service members,” Miller added in the statement.
In a statement, MFO officials said they were “deeply saddened by the loss” of their seven uniformed military colleagues who hailed from three different countries in total.
“This included one Czech, one French, and five U.S. MFO members, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of these soldiers at this difficult time," the statement reads. "We wish the one U.S. MFO Member who survived the crash a speedy recovery.”
A full investigation of the cause of the crash, which appears to be mechanical in nature, has been launched, according to MFO.
“We greatly appreciate the cooperation and support of Egypt and Israel,” MFO also stated in the release. “The incident is a reminder of the sacrifices MFO Members make in support of the cause of peace.”
Since 1981, MFO has safeguarded the peace between Egypt and Israel. The administration’s recent budget calls for $30 million in funding for MFO, but former Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley have both informed lawmakers that the U.S. may soon prepare to withdraw its military forces from this mission.
Under the guidance of President Jimmy Carter in 1978, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat signed the Camp David Accords, which called for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Sinai Peninsula and an international peacekeeping mission.
After the United Nations Security Council failed to oversee the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, the United States became instrumental in creating and maintaining the MFO.
The MFO draws most of its budget in relatively equal proportion from the United States, Israel, and Egypt. Last year, the U.S. provided $31 million to the MFO.
This story contains information from the Associated Press.
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.