Friday, May 22, 2009

Night Stalkers honor their fallen

Col. Clayton N. Hutmacher, right, and retired Master Sgt. Tim Cash lay a wreath at the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment memorial Wednesday. (Jake Lowary/The Leaf-Chronicle)

160th adds one name to its memorial wall

The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment added just one name to its memorial wall this year, but that soldier's death affected the unit just as any other casualty.

On Wednesday at Fort Campbell, the 160th, commonly known as the Night Stalkers, paid respect to its fallen comrades just a few days before the Memorial Day holiday.

Pfc. Blaine Adams died Nov. 28, 2008, during a water survival training exercise and was the only Night Stalker added to the wall this year. Five names were added to the wall in 2008, six in 2007 and eight in 2006.

Col. Clayton Hutmacher, regimental commander, called Adams "a highly motivated young man" and "an example of courage and sacrifice" in his remarks during the memorial ceremony attended by hundreds of family members and fellow soldiers.

"It's personal for all of us when we lose somebody," Hutmacher said.

Staff Sgt. Benjamin "Levi" Pigman, 25, a native of Hamilton, Mont., and engine mechanic for the 160th, also died this year after finishing the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville on April 25.

Since its creation in 1981, 81 names have been added to the memorial wall at Fort Campbell, 33 of those since 9/11. Twenty-six of the deaths have come in Afghanistan and two in Iraq.

Hutmacher said he struggled to find a way to properly recognize the sacrifice of those who have died, and came up with four words, or "simple thoughts": honor, remembrance, grief and thanks. "They were dedicated and gifted soldiers," Hutmacher said. "Their service and contribution as soldiers have had a lasting impact."

Later Wednesday, the regiment dedicated six new buildings on the 160th compound to the honor of six of their fallen comrades.

Staff Sgt. Kerry Frith, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jamie D. Weeks, Sgt. Thomas Allison, Maj. Stephen Reich, Master Sgt. James "Tre" Ponder and Maj. Matthew Worrell all had buildings named in their honor.

"We are who we are as Night Stalkers because of them," Hutmacher said.

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