By Chief Master Sgt. Gonda MoncadaJanuary 14, 2009
BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas (Jan. 14, 2009) -- Media trucks, emergency and military vehicles still line the perimeter roads around Duncan Field at Texas A&M University following the crash of a Texas Army National Guard UH-60 at about 3 p.m. Monday, killing one and injuring five.
The Soldier killed was 2nd Lt. Zachary Cook, a recent graduate from Texas A&M. While waiting for his class date to officer's basic, he assisted the Texas A&M faculty with this year's cadets enrolled in Winter Exercise training.
About 190 Reserve Officers Training Corps students voluntarily enrolled in the course prior to the official start of the semester to gain Soldier skills at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas. The course is offered every year and has been supported by the Texas Military Forces as long as the current faculty can remember.
Col. Jake Betty, ROTC commander, said: "Zach was one of those self-assured individuals that when he entered a room, everybody knew Zach was there. He had this young John Wayne swagger."
Four Texas Army National Guard Soldiers were transported to local hospitals with various degrees of injuries and immediately the crash site was secured by Texas Army National Guard Soldiers, campus and College Station police officers.
One local journalist who happened to be on site recording the events for his newspaper said: "It was amazing how fast people rushed up to the aircraft after the crash. The thing was still smoking but nobody seemed to pay attention to that. Everybody wanted to help. It was remarkable to see."
Those who have seen the wreckage said it is a miracle that anybody emerged from the aircraft alive. Wreckage is strewn across the entire Duncan Field, a field that is sacred for many of the students and faculty at Texas A&M. Years ago a bonfire went horribly wrong there and killed the students who had built it.
Now it has claimed the life of one more person, and Texas Army National Guard Soldiers are being treated for serious injuries.
ROTC Soldiers arrived at the field at different times during the day to pay their respects. Some kneeled to pray; others just stood and reflected. Many of Zach's friends agree that he was doing what he wanted to do most, which is to fly.
The Texas Army National Guard Soldiers are receiving medical care and their family members and many of their Guard members are praying for a full recovery.
All of the Soldiers currently being treated have served valiantly overseas in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
(Chief Master Sgt. Gonda Moncada serves with Texas Military Forces Public Affairs.)