On Thursday, August 27, 2020 a helicopter crash claimed the lives of two members of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. Three others were injured in the crash. The aircraft belonged to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR).
Sgt. Tyler Shelton and Staff Sgt. Vincent Marketta died in the crash. The Black Hawk helicopter mishap took place on San Clemente Island late Thursday evening. The aircraft is reported to have been engaged in routine night training.
San Clemente Island is owned and operated by the United States Navy. It is located 70 miles west of San Diego. It has been used by the Navy as a tactical training range, testing area, and exercise area. There is an airfield, MOUT training facility, and other facilities located on San Clemente Island.
Sergeant Tyler Shelton on left, Staff Sergeant Vincent Marketta on right.
Sgt. Tyler Shelton
Shelton, age 22, joined the Army in 2016 as a 15T UH-60 “Black Hawk” Repairer and was assigned to the 160th SOAR. In 2018 Shelton became a MH-60M Crew Chief. He has deployed to Afghanistan with the 160th SOAR in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.
He was a graduate of several Army courses including Enlisted Combat Skills, Combatives Level I, MH-60 Maintainers Course, Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE), MH-60 Non-Rated Crew Member Course, and the Basic Leaders Course.
His awards and decorations include the Army Good Conduct Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal (Campaign Star), Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, and the Basic Aviator’s Badge.
Shelton was from San Bernardino, California.
Staff Sgt. Vincent Marketta
Marketta, age 33, enlisted in the Army in 2011 as a 15T UH-60 “Black Hawk” Repairer and was assigned to the 160th SOAR. He later became a MH-60M Crew Chief with the 160th SOAR. He has had deployments to Iraq in support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE and deployed once to Afghanistan in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.
He was a graduate of several Army courses to include the Enlisted Combat Skills, Combatives Level I, MH-60 Maintainers Course, Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE), MH-60 Non-Rated Crew Member Course, the Basic and Advanced Leaders Course, and the MH-60 Flight Instructors Course.
His awards and decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with V device, Air Medal with C device, Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal with C device (2OLC), Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal (1OLC), Army Good Conduct Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal (Campaign Star), Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon (Numeral 2), Army Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Combat Action Badge, and the Basic Aviator’s Badge.
Marketta was from Brick, New Jersey.
Both men will receive the Meritorious Service Medal posthumously. Colonel Andrew Graham, the commander of the 160th SOAR, provided a statement of the fatalities:
“The loss of Staff Sgt. Marketta and Sgt. Shelton has left a scar in this Regiment that will never completely heal. Their level of dedication to the 160th SOAR (A) and their exemplary service in the Army is the embodiment of what it means to be a Night Stalker and a Soldier. Our priority now is to ensure the Families of our fallen warriors receive our complete support as we work through this tragedy together. We ask that you keep Staff Sgt. Marketta, Sgt. Shelton, their Families and fellow Night Stalkers in your thoughts and prayers.”
MH-60 Black Hawk Helicopters
The Black Hawk helicopters (UH-60s) were fielded to the Army in the late 1970s and have been continuously upgraded over the past few decades. The U.S. Army’s special operations aviation unit has a modified version – labeled the MH-60. It has specialized equipment to provide a capability of low-level night flying for long distances.
The MH-60 Black Hawk is a twin turbine engine, single rotor, semi-monocoque fuselage helicopter. It is used for the tactical transport of troops and supplies. It’s special equipment allows for the tactical infiltration and exfiltration of SOF personnel into denied areas. It can carry M-60, M-240, or GAU-2B machine guns, which are mounted to the side windows or cabin doors.
160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment
The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment is headquartered at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. It has subordinate units in Washington and Georgia. Their mission is to provide rotary wing support to U.S. special operations forces. The unit has the nickname “Night Stalkers” – reflecting the fact that most of the missions they fly take place at night. The SOAR has some unique helicopters for its SOF missions to include the MH-6, AH-6, MH-60, and MH-47 helicopters.
There are five battalions in the 160th SOAR. They are located at Fort Campbell, Hunter Army Airfield, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Each SOAR battalion is composed of light, medium, and heavy helicopters – all modified and designed to meet the unit’s unique mission requirements.
More information about the aircraft crash will be provided by the military officials after next-of-kin notifications are complete. This story will be updated as more details of the helicopter crash become available.
San Clemente Island Chart from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
MH-60 photo by SFC Alejandro Licea, Special Operations Command South.
Photos of SSG Marketta and SGT Shelton provided by the USASOC Public Affairs Office. Biography information is from “Two Special Operations Soldiers Killed in Aircraft Mishap”, USASOC Public Affairs Office, August 29, 2020.
References: 160th SOAR Fact Sheet