A Gonzaga University Army ROTC graduate was among the five U.S. Army Special Operations soldiers who died in an MH-60 Blackhawk crash in the Mediterranean Sea over the weekend.
The soldiers who died during the refueling training flight were Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen R. Dwyer, 38; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Shane M. Barnes, 34; Staff Sgt. Tanner W. Grone, 26; Sgt. Andrew P. Southard, 27; and Sgt. Cade M. Wolfe, 24.
All five were members of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, based at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.
Barnes, a 2011 Gonzaga University graduate, is survived by his wife and two young daughters, ages 1 and 5, according to CBS News.
A California native, Barnes graduated from Jesuit High School in Sacramento in 2007. He received a full-ride scholarship to Gonzaga through the university’s Army Reserve Officers Training Corps, according to Jesuit High School’s student publication, Plank.
“I signed up to keep the evils that plague our world out of my country as best I can,” Barnes told Plank. “The legacy I choose to leave is that I defended those I love.”
Gonzaga spokesperson Jamie Aitken confirmed Barnes was a cadet in Gonzaga’s Army ROTC program. Plank reported he graduated in the top 10 percent of nationwide ROTC graduates.
After graduating from Gonzaga in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in English literature, according to Sacramento’s ABC 10-TV, Barnes trained as a helicopter pilot at Fort Novosel (formerly Fort Rucker) in Alabama. After a deployment to South Korea, he flew in Afghanistan and Iraq. Barnes’ decorations included the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor device, Air Medal with Combat device and the Army Commendation Medal, ABC 10 reported.
Fellow service member Reanna Walton told ABC that Barnes was an amazing leader and “his smile lit the room up.”
“He also loved his soldiers and took care of us no matter what the need was,” she said.
Aitken said Gonzaga is communicating with his family to write an official statement on Barnes’ passing.
Barnes is not the only graduate of Gonzaga Army ROTC’s Bulldog Battalion to die in the past two decades. In 2006, 1st Lt. Forrest Ewens, a 2004 Whitworth University graduate, was killed in action in Afghanistan when the vehicle he was riding in was hit by an improvised explosive device. In 2012, 1st Lt. Mathew G. Fazzari, a 2010 graduate, died in combat while deployed in Afghanistan when the helicopter he was in took on enemy fire and crashed. He was 25.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect Gonzaga Army ROTC Bulldog Battalion graduates to die in the past two decades.