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    NY National Guard Mourns Loss of Three Soldiers

    NY National Guard Mourns Loss of Army Aircrew

    Courtesy Photo | A memorial display during a unit vigil held at the Gates Fire District Firehouse in...... read more read more



    Story by 1st Lt. Lauren Warner 

    New York National Guard

    ROCHESTER, N.Y. – New York Army National Guard Soldiers assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 171st General Support Aviation shared stories about, and memories of, three of their own killed in a UH-60 crash in the Town of Mendon on Wednesday, Jan. 20, during a vigil at the Gates Fire District Firehouse on Sunday, Jan. 24.

    The Guard Soldiers remembered Chief Warrant Officer 5 Steven Skoda, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Christian Koch and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Prial. The three were conducting night vision goggle proficiency training .
    The event acknowledged the company’s collective loss and give Soldiers and family members an opportunity to grieve together, said Maj. Voley Martin, the Charlie Company commander.

    Martin reflected on each of the pilots and the individuality each brought to the unit.

    Skoda was a mentor to all, Koch was always focused on a positive vision for the unit and Prial, coming from the active duty Army as a commissioned officer, had immense expertise and meshed perfectly with the unit, Martin said.

    Lt. Col. Shawn Hatch, the 642d Aviation Support Battalion Commander, said that each one had a passion for flying and helping their community.
    “They lived to fly, and they loved the men and women around them,” Hatch said.

    Fellow Soldiers and friends of Skoda, Koch and Prial spoke about their memories and the legacy each Soldier left behind.

    Skoda was seen as a mentor with a wealth of knowledge who was always willing to help anyone. Koch lit up any room he walked into and was a friend to all. Prial would give his shirt off his back to anyone that was in need, Martin said.

    Every individual that spoke agreed that the three made an impact on the lives they touched and will be remembered for their sacrifices.

    The three pilots had more than 50 years of combined flight experience who were all devoted to Army Aviation and flying, said Lt. Col. Jason Lefton, the New York National Guard State Aviation Officer.

    Their loss is felt across the entire flying community in the state, he said.
    “Most of us are the best of the community and if we get hurt, the whole community hurts,” Lefton said.

    Skoda was a 35-year veteran of the Army and the New York Army National Guard and became a pilot in 1992. Koch was a 20-year veteran of the New York Army National Guard and became a pilot in 2006. Prial earned his commission from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 2012 and attained the rank of captain before accepting an appointment as a warrant officer in the New York Army National Guard so he could continue to fly.

    “When I think about Prial, here is a guy with a Ph. D who gave away immense opportunity, who could have done anything, and he stayed with us,” Lefton said. “Every one of these guys grew up around Steve (Skoda), and then you hear about the other part of Christian Koch. I knew he was with the State Troopers, but you don’t realize the depth National Guard members have on the community.”

    People all over the community, state and country have reached out to express their deepest condolences, Lefton said.

    The vigil showed the great impact these men had on many lives. They will be deeply missed by all, he said.

    “We are all in this together, and we will get through this by looking after each other,” Lefton said.

    The loss of the aircraft and crew remain under investigation by the Army Safety Center. An investigation team remains in Rochester to conduct its analysis of the crash.



    Date Taken: 01.24.2021
    Date Posted: 01.25.2021 10:33
    Story ID: 387515
    Location: ROCHESTER, NY, US 

    Web Views: 871
    Downloads: 0