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2 D-M airmen shot down, killed in Afghanistan

Four U.S. airmen, including two from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, were killed when their helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan on Wednesday.

Tech Sgt. Michael P. Flores, 32, of San Antonio, and Senior Airman Benjamin D. White, 24, of Erwin, Tenn., were both pararescueman assigned to the 48th Rescue Squadron at Davis-Monthan.

Flores is survived by his wife, Tech. Sgt. Marisa Flores, also based at D-M, his three-year-old daughter Eliana, and his one-year-old son Michael. Sergeant Flores entered the Air Force in 1998 and was serving on his eighth deployment. He had earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and 12 Air Medals.

White is survived by his father, Anthony White, mother, Brenda Logozo, and step-father, Frank Logozo. Airman White entered the Air Force in 2006 and was serving on his first deployment.

Also killed on the medevac helicopter were 1st Lt. Joel C. Gentz, 25, of Grass Lake, Mich., and Staff Sgt. David C. Smith, 26, of Eight Mile, Ala., both assigned to the 66th Rescue Squadron, at Nellis AFB in Nevada.

The deaths of Flores and White bring the number of troops with Tucson and Southern Arizona connections killed in Afghanistan and Iraq to 44.

The four were in a HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter that crashed near Forward Operating Base Jackson, in southeastern Afghanistan's Helmand province.

The crash was the result of hostile fire, officials told the Washington Post:

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A rocket-propelled grenade appears to have downed the craft, said Brig. Gen. Frederick B. Hodges, one of the top U.S. commanders in southern Afghanistan, who cited the findings of a preliminary investigation.

Hodges said NATO aircraft are routinely shot at, but generally without deadly effect because the Taliban appears to lack sophisticated surface-to-air missiles.

"It's a big deal every time we lose someone," he said. "But this is more of a jolt. The medevac crews are some of the bravest people in the world. Just by the nature of what they do, they're always moving into danger."

Three service members survived the crash, Hodges said.

The Taliban asserted responsibility for the attack in a statement that said insurgents fired at the aircraft as it was flying at a low altitude near the market in Sangin.

23 NATO troops, including 17 Americans, have been killed in Afghanistan since Sunday.

"This is a very sad time for every member of the D-M team," said Brig. Gen. Paul T. Johnson, D-M's commander, in a news release.

"But right now, we are focusing specifically on supporting the families of Senior Airman White and Tech. Sgt. Flores. I can say with certainty we will do our absolute best to help them in every way we can. Beyond that, I can only stress the irrefutable fact that these two men gave their own lives in the brave and selfless effort to save the lives of others. Their sacrifice will be solemnly remembered by all of us, and their example will forever underscore the rescue creed 'That Others May Live.'"

D-M's 48th Rescue Squadron, part of the 563rd Rescue Group,  performs combat search and rescue missions.

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U.S. Air Force

Air National Guard troops participate in a training exercise while flying out of Davis-Monthan AFB.