Army Guard identifies two killed in helicopter crash at the border

by Vern Evans

The U.S. Army has released the names of two National Guard warrant officers killed in a recent helicopter crash near the U.S.-Mexico border.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Casey Frankoski, 28, of Rensselaer, New York, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 John Grassia, 30, of Schenectady, New York, died when their UH-72 Lakota helicopter crashed near Rio Grande City, Texas, at 2:50 p.m. on March 8.

Both warrant officers were assigned to Detachment 2, Company A, 1st of the 224th Aviation Regiment, New York Army National Guard.

Border Patrol Agent Chris Luna, 49, also died in the crash.

A third New York Army National Guard member, the aircraft’s crew chief, was injured in the crash and was being treated in a local hospital as of Sunday, according to a news release from the New York Division of Military and Naval Affairs. The soldier was not identified in the release.

The crash remains under investigation, according to a release from the National Guard Bureau of Public Affairs.

“We are all shocked and devastated by the loss of Chief Warrant Officer 2 Grassia, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Frankoski, while serving along the U.S. border in Texas,” said Maj. Gen. Ray Shields, the adjutant general of New York.

“We are praying for the quick recovery of the crew chief who was injured in the crash. Our deepest condolences also go out to the family and friends of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent who was also killed,” Shields added in release.

The Lakota helicopter was assigned to the federal government’s border security mission when it crashed during aviation operations, according to a statement released by Joint Task Force North, a military unit that supports Customs and Border Protection. No further details were provided.

Soldiers from the detachment deployed to Texas in October to support the federal military mission. They are not part of the Texas National Guard’s Operation Lone Star, according to the New York Guard release.

The border region is heavily patrolled by state and federal entities, to include routine aerial surveillance. National Guard soldiers under federal duty status have assisted such efforts at various points in recent decades. The mission now underway began during former President Donald Trump’s tenure and has been highlighted by large numbers of migrant encounters.

The twin-engine, single-main-rotor Lakota helicopter is a variant of the commercial American Eurocopter EC-145. It has seating for two pilots and up to six passengers or two litters.

The March 8 crash is the Guard’s third since Feb. 12, Army Times reported.

In February, the Guard temporarily grounded all flight crews after Apache helicopter crashes in Utah and Mississippi killed two troops and injured two more.

Detachment 2, which specializes in flying missions that support civilian agencies, is based at Army Aviation Flight Facility #3 at the Albany (New York) International Airport.

Frankoski enlisted in the New York Army National Guard in October 2016. She was appointed as a warrant officer in 2019 and trained to become a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot. She was promoted to the rank of warrant officer 2 in 2021.

She is a graduate of Columbia High School and Schenectady County Community College, where she attained an associate’s degree in social science.

Frankoski deployed to Kuwait from November 2018 to September 2019 with Detachment 5, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 245th Aviation Regiment. The unit flies the Army’s C-12 transport aircraft.

Grassia, who was also a New York state trooper, enlisted in the New York Army National Guard in 2013 as a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter maintenance specialist. He was appointed as a warrant officer in 2019 and trained as a UH-60 pilot. He was promoted to the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 2 in 2020.

He is a 2012 graduate of Schalmont High School in Schenectady.

Grassia deployed to Kuwait with Company A of the 3rd Battalion, 142nd Assault Helicopter Battalion from September 2013 to September 2014. He was also on state active duty from 2020 to 2022 as part of the New York National Guard’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Frankoski’s military awards include the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Armed Forces Service Medal, the Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal, the Basic Aviator Badge, and the Basic Aviation Badge.

Grassia’s military awards include the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Armed Forces Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal, the Basic Aviator Badge.

The Assosciated Press and Army Times Senior Reporter Davis Winkie contributed to this article.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

Read the full article here

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