The Pentagon yesterday identified two helicopter pilots taken prisoner by Iraqi forces after their AH-64D Apache Longbow gunship went down during heavy fighting against the Iraqi Republican Guard's Medina Division near Karbala.
The pilots are Ronald D. Young Jr., 26, of Lithia Springs, Ga., and David S. Williams, 30, of Orlando, defense officials said. Both are Army chief warrant officers assigned to the Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division.
Young enlisted about 31/2 years ago, after two years of college, because he wanted to learn how to fly, said Kelly Lively, one of four siblings.
"He's always wanted to fly. That's why he went into the military -- to learn to fly. He's very proud to be serving his country," she said.
"He's an outstanding guy. We love him and support him. We're hoping and praying that he comes home," Lively said.
"He's just a very strong person. You get a very strong sense of security about him," she said.
Lively said her brother plays the guitar and brought one overseas with him.
"He wrote a letter home and said that he was thankful he had his guitar there during the time he was in the tents. I guess he played music for all the guys and kept them occupied," she said.
The Pentagon listed the pilots as missing in action throughout much of the day, even after satellite network al-Jazeera aired footage of both men in their flight suits, looking dazed but unharmed. One Pentagon source indicated, however, that their status would soon be changed to prisoner of war.
Iraqi television also broadcast pictures of the downed helicopter surrounded by a mob of Iraqis brandishing rifles and celebrating. While it was not clear whether the aircraft was shot down or landed because of a maintenance failure, more than a dozen other Longbows took heavy fire during the battle and had to turn back.
Staff writer Rob Stein contributed to this report.