A 31-year-old soldier who grew up in Stafford County was among the 16 service members who died this week when their helicopter crashed in eastern Afghanistan, his brother said yesterday.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael L. Russell graduated from North Stafford High School, and his father, Lee, still lives in Stafford. Lee Russell Jr., 33, who lives in Raleigh, N.C., said from his late brother's home near Fort Stewart, Ga., that the family had been informed by the Army that Michael Russell had died in the crash.

He said the family did not want to comment in detail. "We just want to say we're proud of him," he said.

Michael Russell was a member of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, which is based at Hunter Army Airfield, near Fort Stewart, and provides aviation support to Army Special Forces. He and his wife, Annette, had two young daughters.

According to the yearbook at North Stafford High School, Russell was in the Model United Nations and the history club.

"He was just your average, likable person," said Michael Scullin, 31, who was among "a dozen or so" young people, including Russell, who grew up together, playing baseball and football and participating in Boy Scouts and martial arts.

The Army declined to identify any of the 16 service members who were onboard the MH-47 helicopter that crashed Tuesday, saying not all family members had been notified.

An official with the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the 16 bodies had been recovered and that the aircraft apparently had been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

The troops onboard Russell's helicopter -- eight from a Navy SEAL team and eight from the 160th -- were going to the aid of other troops, who had been fighting in Kunar province, Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters yesterday.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael L. Russell is shown with his wife, Annette. He had two daughters.