Brief biographies of the four Army aviators killed Monday night in the crash of two helicopters at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
A father of four who wed his high-school sweetheart. A young wife who embraced the challenges of West Point. An expectant father anxious for the birth of his first child. A pilot who followed in the footsteps of his father.
The four Army aviators who were killed Monday in the crash of two helicopters at Joint Base Lewis-McChord came from different backgrounds but shared a love of flying and of serving their country.
They were identified by the Army on Wednesday as Chief Warrant Officer 3 Frank Buoniconti III; Capt. Anne M. Montgomery; Chief Warrant Officer 3 Shan Joseph Satterfield; and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Lucas Daniel Sigfrid.
Montgomery and Buoniconti were assigned to A Troop, and Satterfield and Sigfrid were assigned to C Troop, all with the 4th Squadron, 6th Attack Reconnaissance Squadron, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade.
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On Wednesday, a team of investigators from the Combat Readiness Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., launched an investigation into the crash of the two Kiowa OH-58D helicopters. The investigation could take as long as a year, according to Army officials.
The aviators were on a routine night training flight in the two-seat reconnaissance helicopters when they crashed after 8 p.m. in the southwest training area of the base in Thurston County, the Army said.
Although the double crash raised the possibility of a collision, Army officials refused to speculate on the cause.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends and loved ones of the aviators involved in this accident,” Col. Robert Dickerson, commander of the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, said in a statement Wednesday. “We are conducting a thorough investigation to find the cause of this event and offer our utmost support to the families during this difficult time.”
Here are brief biographies of the four victims:
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Frank A. Buoniconti III, 36, was a father of four and a native of Colorado, where he graduated from Doherty High School in Colorado Springs.
His father, Frank Buoniconti Jr., also of Colorado Springs, described him as “a good husband and a good father.”
He had deployed to Iraq twice and to Afghanistan twice. Buoniconti once told the Fayetteville, N.C., Observer that he carried a stuffed pig his daughter had given him for good luck on his missions.
The pig had more than 1,600 hours of flying time, he told the newspaper.
Buoniconti’s mother, Silvia Buoniconti, told The Gazette of Colorado Springs that her son was “a great guy.” He joined the Army because “he felt it was the right thing to do,” she said.
Buoniconti, an amateur chef who loved to cook, married his high-school sweetheart. The couple recently adopted a special-needs child.
“Nobody wanted that little boy because of what he had,” Silvia Buoniconti told The Gazette. “It just got final a week or two ago,” she said of the adoption.
Buoniconti had been stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord since early November. His previous assignments were at Fort Bragg, N.C., and the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif.
He had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal (six awards), Army Commendation Medal (nine awards), the Army Commendation Medal with V Device and the Army Senior Aviator Badge.
Capt. Anne M. Montgomery, 25, lived in one impoverished nation after the next while growing up as the eldest child of a humanitarian-worker father. But to the tight-knit family, rural North Dakota was considered home.
Montgomery was the eldest child of Kurt and Kathleen Rockeman. Relatives say she was bubbly and fun and worked doggedly to achieve her goals.
After years of home schooling and time in private schools overseas while her father worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development, Montgomery received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
“To get an appointment to West Point was just out of this world. Her granddad, my dad, was a World War II veteran and was so proud of his service he was just floating on air when she got that appointment,” said her uncle Keith Rockeman, of Grassy Butte, N.D. “She always had this dream of flying. My brother was a pilot; he was in the Civil Air Patrol here in North Dakota. She inherited that love of flying from him.”
In an essay that was submitted with her application to the academy, Montgomery wrote:
“I want to attend a school that challenges you physically and academically, regardless of gender, so I may fully gauge my abilities and shortcomings for myself. I want to be tested and come through still strong, to know that I am capable of accomplishing difficult things, and to have confidence in my ability to contribute.”
After graduating from the academy in 2008, she began active duty.
It was while on active duty that Montgomery married Chief Warrant Officer Aaron H. Montgomery. The couple, both Kiowa helicopter pilots stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, were married in Georgia in May 2010, said her father-in-law, Levi Montgomery.
Levi Montgomery, who fondly referred to his daughter-in-law by the nickname “Rockie,” said that “she was the perfect other half of my son.”
“She was what made him whole, in a way that so few people can truly enrich and be enriched by others,” Levi Montgomery wrote in an email to The Times.
Family was central to Montgomery, and she adored her younger sister, Geneva, a college student in Missouri. She also was close with younger brothers August and Christian, who live with their parents in Kenya, where the couple are on a mission with their church, said Rockeman, her uncle.
Montgomery and her husband spent Thanksgiving with Geneva and 11 other relatives, including Rockeman, at an aunt’s home in Minnesota. “We would get up and sit at the kitchen table in the morning drinking coffee; she would come down and we would just chatter and talk,” Rockeman said. “What a wonderful couple. They were so devoted to each other and so fun.”
During the four days in Minnesota, Montgomery told her relatives that she loved being in the military and adored flying but wanted to have children.
“She loved flying; she just loved it,” Rockeman said. “She mentioned one time she was afraid of heights and we thought, being a pilot, that’s a weird idea. But she said that it’s great when you’re in control. She was in control of what she was doing.”
Montgomery’s Army decorations include the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Army Aviator Badge.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Lucas Daniel Sigfrid, 32, has been on active duty since May 2008, and he arrived for duty at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in January.
Although Sigfrid’s personnel records list Alabama as his home state, he listed his hometown as Zimmerman, Minn., on his Facebook page. He graduated from Champlin Park High School, in a suburb of Minneapolis, and attended St. Cloud State University before training as an Army pilot, his cousin Mark Duclos told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Duclos said Sigfrid’s wife, Hilary, is pregnant. Duclos and his wife also are expecting.
“We were just talking last week … about if we’re going to have boys and they would grow up like us. We were just hellions,” Duclos said.
Another cousin, Anthony Sigfrid, wrote on Sigfrid’s Facebook page that Sigfrid was “a kind of hero to me because he never gave up on his dreams.”
Mary Beall, of Bellwood, Ala., said the couple lived near her when Sigfrid was stationed in Alabama.
She said Hilary Sigfrid was an emergency-room nurse and that both she and her husband were cordial and professional.
“They were a lovely young couple who were anxious to have their first child. It’s such a shame to hear what happened,” she said.
Sigfrid’s high-school wrestling coach, Bill Maresh, said that Sigfrid wrestled all four years of high school and that while he wasn’t a champion, he was dedicated to the sport and his team.
“He was just one of those guys who kept coming, and he fought as hard as he could all the time,” Maresh told The Associated Press.
A call to Sigfrid’s home in Olympia was answered by a woman who said the soldier’s wife and extended family were grieving and did not wish to speak with reporters.
Sigfrid’s decorations include the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Army Aviator Badge.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Shan Joseph Satterfield, 32, was a native of Alaska, where he graduated in 1997 from Dimond High School in south Anchorage, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
Satterfield’s brother Scott said he loved to fly and was following in the military footsteps of their father, who is also a pilot. Their mother and father both are retired from the Air Force and also served in the Air National Guard.
“Dad taught him to fly. He got his pilot’s license through my dad,” Scott Satterfield told the Daily News.
Satterfield had served on active duty since September 1997 and had been stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord since December 2009. His previous assignments were in Korea and at Fort Campbell, Ky.
He deployed to Iraq once and to Afghanistan once.
Satterfield was awarded the Air Medal (two awards), Army Commendation Medal (two awards) and the Aviator Badge.
Satterfield and his wife, Sassa, have two young children. She posted on Facebook about the crash: “Just want to say that Shan (husband and daddy) was killed in a crash Monday night, thank you for all your thoughts and prayers. I’ll get back on FB when I feel a little more human again. So sad.”
Seattle Times staff reporters Hal Bernton, Jennifer Sullivan and Christine Clarridge and news researchers Miyoko Wolf and David Turim contributed to this report, which includes information from The Associated Press.