Iowa soldiers were deployed with helicopter crash pilots, crew - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa soldiers were deployed with helicopter crash pilots, crew

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

An investigation continues into the crash of a military helicopter off the Florida Panhandle Tuesday night.

7 Marines and 4 Louisiana National Guard members died in the crash when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed into the Gulf of Mexico during thick fog.

6 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters similar to the one that crashed, are based at the Iowa Army National Guard's Aviation Support Facility in Waterloo.

Some of the soldiers who train there served in their last deployment with the pilots and crew aboard the helicopter which crashed.

Army Black Hawk helicopters arriving and departing from routine training are a familiar sight at the Waterloo Regional Airport.

They support medical evacuation missions when deployed and are part of regular training exercises throughout the year.

LTC Tim Eich/Iowa Army National Guard: "Safety is a big part of everything that we do and we work hard to mitigate any risks that we face down to the lowest level possible and then we train constantly. It's that risk awareness and that good training that helps to minimize these types of things from happening," said LTC Tim Eich, facility commander for the Iowa National Guard.

36 full-time soldiers are based at the Waterloo facility while another 185 drill there.

Any training incident like the one in Florida hits close to home.

But this one has a personal connection to some in eastern Iowa.

The pilots and crew from the Louisiana National Guard had been deployed to Kosovo with the Iowa National Guard in 2013 and 2014.

"It's especially true in this case because the crew of that helicopter spent the last year in Kosovo with several of our soldiers here in Waterloo. They deployed together to Kosovo for the last year so it's especially personal to several of us here in the facility," said LTC Eich.

Eich says the Iowa soldiers in Kosovo worked with this particular crew from Louisiana very closely.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash while recovery efforts continue.

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