Soldiers Killed in Apache Helicopter Crash Are Identified by Mississippi National Guard

by Braxton Taylor

The Mississippi National Guard has identified two Guardsmen who died Friday in an AH-64 Apache helicopter crash in the northern part of the state.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Bryan Andrew Zemek, 36, was in Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment, and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Derek Joshua Abbott, 42, was in Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 151st Lakota Medical Evacuation unit, according to the National Guard.

“Jill and I mourn the loss of two Mississippi National Guardsmen,” President Joe Biden said in a statement Saturday. “Our prayers are with their families, units, and the entire Mississippi National Guard at this incredibly difficult time.”

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“We will continue to keep our solemn promise to care for their families,” Biden added. “Just as they were faithful to our nation.”

The crash occurred during a routine, daytime training mission amid clear weather conditions. The incident is still under investigation, and it may take weeks before a cause is identified.

Zemek, who was from Oxford, Mississippi, is survived by his wife and three kids. His awards include four Army Commendation Medals and the Senior Army Aviator Badge.

Abbott, a native of Fulton, Mississippi, is survived by his wife and three children. An Iraq War veteran, Abbott’s awards include the Air Medal with a Valor device and numeral 2, three Army Commendation Medals, the Senior Army Aviator Badge, and Combat Action Badge.

“With a heavy heart, let us all always remember the bravery and courage of the men and women in our armed forces,” Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves told reporters Saturday.

It was the latest in a string of fatal military helicopter incidents in recent years. In April, the Army grounded all of its aircraft after a crash involving two Black Hawks out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, killed nine soldiers in one of the deadliest training incidents in the service’s history.

Earlier this month, a Utah National Guard AH-64 Apache helicopter crashed near Salt Lake City. In a rarity for aviation crashes, the two pilots survived.

The military has grappled with rotary-wing aircraft mishaps, but the Army National Guard in particular has had a large number of incidents over the past decade, with at least 28 of its troops killed in helicopter crashes as of April, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office.

The National Guard has issues maintaining its aircraft and allotting proper flight time for its pilots, with many of those aviation units being largely manned by part-time troops. In addition to making up much of the aviation support and air power abroad, the Guard heavily relies on helicopters for domestic missions, including disaster relief and search and rescue.

Related: National Guard Apache Helicopter Crashes in Mississippi Killing Two Crew Members

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