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82nd Combat Aviation Brigade pilots killed in eastern Afghanistan (UNCLASSIFIED)

Release date: 09 September 2012

Release # 12-09-001
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

82nd Combat Aviation Brigade pilots killed in eastern Afghanistan

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Two pilots from the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, died Sept. 5 when their OH-58D Kiowa Warrior went down in Logar Province, Afghanistan.

U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officers 2 Jose Montenegro, Jr., and Thalia Ramirez were nearing the end of a year-long deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

“Chief Warrant Officers 2 Montenegro and Ramirez exemplified the Army values and warrior spirit every day of their lives,” said U.S. Army Col. T.J. Jamison, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade commander. “They were two courageous Air Cavalrymen and outstanding Americans. My deepest condolences go out to both their families. Our hearts, thoughts and prayers are with you.”

Montenegro, 31, of San Juan, Texas, originally joined the U.S. Army in 2001 as an enlisted infantryman.

“He loved his country and was proud to do what was asked of him, without question, without hesitation,” said U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jason England, Troop F, 1-17 Air Cavalry Regiment, 82nd CAB, 82nd Abn. Div. “Most of us know that nothing reveals true character like a firefight. Those of us who have had the honor and privilege to fight alongside him know that Monte was the warrior he seemed and more.”

Montenegro, or “Monte,” as his friends called him, earned OH-58D Kiowa Warrior aviator qualification in 2008, and attended the Warrant Officer Basic Course in 2009, upon which he was assigned to the 82nd CAB at Fort Bragg, N.C. This was his third deployment; Montenegro previously deployed to Iraq in 2004 and Afghanistan in 2010.

“He would not have us mourn for him,” said England in a memorial ceremony on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Sept. 7. “He died on the field of battle with his boots on and a rifle in his hand. He has gone to his rest, to the open arms of a loving Savior. The world is a lesser place now that it lacks Monte’s presence. We have lost a true and faithful friend, and our Nation has lost one of its great warriors.”

Montenegro’s awards include the Air Medal with Valor 4th device, Air Medal 2nd device, Purple Heart Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal with “V” device, Army Achievement Medal with four oak leaf clusters, Valorous Unit Award, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with three Campaign Stars, Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terror Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon 3rd device, NATO Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Combat Action Badge and the Army Aviator Badge.

He is survived by his mother, Reyna Torres, and sister, Liliana Montenegro.

Ramirez, 28, originally of Nairobi, Kenya, and most recently a Raeford, N.C. resident, joined the U.S. Army in 2003 as an enlisted water purification specialist.

“She was a true quiet professional, and an incredible role model to so many,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Landy Dunham, commander, Task Force Talon, 82nd CAB, 82nd Abn. Div. “Thalia never failed to set the perfect example of a confident and competent warrior. She was fearless, and loved her job. She selflessly risked everything, on a regular basis, in defense of her brothers and sisters in arms.”

She earned OH-58D Kiowa Warrior aviator qualification in 2008, and was assigned to the 82nd CAB in 2009. This was her second deployment. Ramirez had flown more than 270 missions and 650 hours in the course of the one-year deployment.

“Thalia was not afraid of the enemy, and loved her job,” said U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joseph Panza, Troop F, 1-17 Air Cavalry Regiment, 82nd CAB, 82nd Abn. Div.  “In June, I was in an engagement with Thalia where our aircraft were being engaged by insurgents with [machine guns] in multiple locations. Both aircraft took battle damage, but we continued the fight. We took out all the insurgents we could, then contained the enemy with our M-4 [rifles] until we could hand over the fight. That’s the kind of warrior Thalia was.”

Ramirez’s awards include the Air Medal 3rd device, the Purple Heart Medal, Army Commendation Medal with Valor, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Valorous Unit Award, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with three Campaign Stars, Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terror Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon 2nd device, NATO Medal, the Combat Action Badge and the Army Aviator Badge.

“As we finish up this deployment and return home, in some way remember my friend Thalia,” said Panza at the Sept. 7 ceremony on Bagram Airfield honoring both pilots. “Whether it’s a moment of silence, a toast, or a prayer to whatever divine power you believe in. Just a small gesture for someone who made a huge sacrifice doing what she believed in.”

Ramirez leaves behind her husband, Jesse Belbeck, in the U.S., and mother and father, Justin Ramirez and Alexandra Moll, in Kenya.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.

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