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Army officer from Maryland among five soldiers killed in Afghanistan helicopter crash

An Army officer from Carroll County was among five soldiers killed in a helicopter crash last week in Afghanistan, according to the Defense Department.

Capt. Sara M. Knutson, 27, of Eldersburg, Md., died March 11, in Kandahar, Pentagon officials said in a news release. Knutson was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.

Knutson, a 2003 graduate of Liberty High School and a 2007 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, is the first Marylander killed in Afghanistan this year.

NATO reported the crash of the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter in Southern Afghanistan last week. Initial reports indicated there was no enemy activity in the area at the time, the coalition said.

The incident remains under investigation.

Also killed were Staff Sgt. Steven P. Blass, 27, of Estherville, Iowa; Chief Warrant Officer Bryan J. Henderson, 27, of Franklin, La.; Staff Sgt. Marc A. Scialdo, 31, of Naples, Fla.; and Spec. Zachary L. Shannon, 21, of Dunedin, Fla.

All, like Knutson, were assigned to elements of the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade at Hunter Army Airfield.

According to a U.S. Military Academy alumni Web site Knutson married a former Black Hawk pilot in November and deployed to Afghanistan in January. She previously served at Fort Wainwright in Alaska and deployed on a humanitarian mission to Pakistan.

The Web site, which identifies her as Sara Marie (Knutson) Cullen, said the helicopter crash last week occurred during a training mission in heavy rain.

The crash and the deaths of two special operations forces shot by an Afghan policeman made last Monday the deadliest day for U.S. troops in Afghanistan this year, accounting for half of the 14 troops killed so far in 2013.

— The Baltimore Sun


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