2 midstate PA Nat'l Guard soldiers killed in Afghanistan

Written by Craig Layne, Morning Edition Host/Reporter | Apr 10, 2013 3:03 PM
Thumbnail image for yoder_ruffner_web.jpg

Chief Warrant Officer Jarett Yoder (Left) Chief Warrant Officer Matthew Ruffner (Right)

(Fort Indiantown Gap) -- Two Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers from the midstate have been killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.

An Apache helicopter went down in eastern Afghanistan yesterday, killing Chief Warrant Officer Matthew Ruffner, a western PA native who lived in Harrisburg, and Chief Warrant Officer Jarett Yoder of Reading.

“Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers are with the Ruffner and Yoder families," said Major General Wesley Craig, adjutant general of Pennsylvania. "We will support them in their hour of great need. We celebrate the lives of these two Army aviators. They died helping others to be free.”

Governor Corbett and First Lady Susan Corbett offered their condolences to the families of Yoder and Ruffner.

“We pray for the safe return of the thousands of Pennsylvania National Guard members currently deployed, and we are grateful to each one of them and their families for the sacrifices they are making on our nation’s behalf,” Corbett said.

The two men were members of the 1-104 Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, which is tasked with flying helicopter missions.

Ruffner was a 1997 graduate of London High School in London, Ohio. He graduated in 2003 from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s in criminology and was most recently employed as a full-time Apache instructor pilot for the PA National Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility at Fort Indiantown Gap in Lebanon County.

He joined the military in 1997. His awards and decorations include the Army Achievement Medal, three Army Reserve Component Achievement Medals and the Parachutist Badge.

Yoder was a 2005 graduate of Oley Valley High School in Oley, Berks County and attended Reading Community College.

He enlisted in the military in 2005. His awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal, Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge and Driver and Mechanic Badge.

In a statement, Yoder's wife, Heather Garay-Yoder, called Jarrett her American hero.

“He always dreamed of being an Apache pilot and he followed those dreams to continue to fight for our country.  Jarett died doing what he loved and dreamed of doing, a true hero,"she wrote. "There are so many people who love him and we will never forget."

National Guard spokesman Staff Sergeant Matt Jones says very few details are available at this point.

"There is an investigation, but, in general, when it comes to helicopter crashes, there are three causes: it could either be enemy action, mechanical failure, or pilot error," Staff Sergeant Jones explains. "The investigation will determine which of those causes, or combination of those causes could have casued the incident."

The 1-104, which is based at Fort Indiantown Gap in Lebanon County and Johnstown, deployed to Afghanistan in August for a year-long tour.

It's the largest of several Pennsylvania National Guard aviation units deployed to the country, with more than 300 members.


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