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    Photo By Sgt. Tracy R. Myers | Task Force No Mercy's firing squad bow their heads to pray at Staff Sgt. Brandon...... read more read more



    Story by Spc. Tracy R. Myers 

    101st Combat Aviation Brigade

    FORWARD OPERATING BASE TARIN KOWT, Afghanistan –During an early morning mission June 21 in Kandahar province, the helicopter Silk was aboard crashed taking his life, along with three Australian soldiers.

    Silk left an impression on everyone he encountered. He will be honored for his contributions to this unit, and his legacy will forever remain in the hearts and minds of the people he has impacted.

    “If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?”

    Silk made such an impact on his fellow soldiers, he will always live on in their memory.
    Silk wanted to go back to Maine to be with his family and become a game warden after his commitment to the Army, said Sgt. Destry Bush, C Co., TF No Mercy crew chief.
    This was an aspiration shared by both soldiers.

    “There is a good chance I will become a game warden now,” said Bush. “He will never be forgotten-by any of us.”

    Soldiers will honor his memory and live to commemorate him in different ways.

    “From this point on, everything we do here is for him,” said Sgt. Alexander Legarreta, C Co., TF No Mercy crew chief.

    As a highly respected non-commissioned officer and flight instructor, Silk’s passion, talent and motivation will live on through the soldiers he inspired.

    He was proud of the soldiers he progressed. He felt he was making an even greater contribution to his country by turning out proficient crew chiefs, said Legarreta. It is those Soldiers who will carry on that ambition.

    Silk influenced soldiers in many different ways through training, motivation and encouragement.

    “He made them understand they make a difference,” said Legarreta.

    In life, it is not rare for your positive contributions to sometimes be overlooked, but not for Silk.

    “There’s a hole in our ranks that won’t be filled for a long time,” said 1st Sgt. Kurt McCormick, C Co., TF No Mercy noncommissioned officer in charge. “His boots will be hard to fill.”

    And so the life, energy and presence of Silk will always be remembered.

    “... For I must be traveling on now, ‘cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see …”

    Silk had an adventurous personality, always up to any challenge and more than ready to go out on any mission.

    Even on the most dangerous missions, his courage never wavered, said Legarreta. He never questioned any mission … he enjoyed every minute.

    “He was always excited to go on air assault missions,” said Staff Sgt. Aidan O’Hare, C Co., TF No Mercy platoon sergeant. “It was always a big deal to him because he really felt he was making a difference.”

    While on a mission June 11, Silk’s aircraft received hostile fire.

    He contributed greatly to that mission by taking charge of that aircraft, executing suppressive fire and making the calls to navigate the aircraft out of harm’s way, said McCormick.

    Silk’s courage, charisma and expertise were tested that day, but did not falter.

    “His actions during that mission hugely reduced risk to the crew,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ryan LoFranco, C Co., TF No Mercy Blackhawk pilot.

    Silk played a large role in the success of many missions here.

    “His insight, and sometimes the brutal honesty with which he conveyed his insight, saved me and fellow aviators from making poor decisions that could have led to trouble,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Richard Schleyer, C Co., TF No Mercy Blackhawk pilot. “I always had complete and utter confidence when he was in the back of the aircraft.”

    Silk was constantly requested by pilots to fly missions with them because he was always vigilant and made the right calls.

    “These successful missions have had an immediate and significant impact on the Afghan people, ridding them from an oppressive regime of local taliban leaders and their fighters,” said Lt. Col. Scott Hasken, TF No Mercy commander.

    Silk was proud to be a Soldier serving his country and helping the Afghan people.
    “He felt the people of Afghanistan truly needed our help,” said O’Hare. “He was genuinely concerned for their safety.”

    Silk came to C Co. after serving as a medevac crew chief his entire Army career.
    He strived to be an air assault crew chief because he felt he would be making a greater contribution to the efforts here by putting troops on the battlefield, said O’Hare.

    The efforts of C Co. greatly focus on air assault and resupply missions, which allow the crew to significantly impact the ground forces.

    Silk felt resupply missions were important because they affected the ground forces and the people of Afghanistan in a positive way, said Legarreta. He loved to transport anything that would make someone else’s day brighter, whether it was food, water or even mail.

    Shortly after training as a door gunner and becoming an air assault crew chief, Silk was assigned the position of senior flight instructor.

    He was given the responsibility because of his experience as a medevac crew chief and vast knowledge of the job and aircraft, said McCormick.

    Flight instructors are vital to the success of aviation missions because they teach new crew chiefs the essence of their job.

    He received an Army Achievement Medal shortly after arriving in theater for improving the flight capabilities of the 101st CAB. He successfully trained the door gunners and crew chiefs of 5th Battalion before deploying, and assisted 6th Battalion in training their crew chiefs, said McCormick.

    Silk had an amazing work ethic and took great pride in his mission.

    He believed crew chiefs did twice the job in half the amount of time, because they fly and maintain the aircraft all in a day’s work, said O’Hare.

    Silk was never satisfied until the task at hand was complete.

    “Last deployment he was counseled by his platoon sergeant for working too many hours a day,” said Schleyer. “He told me he wouldn’t be able to sleep until he knew the job was done.”

    In addition to his assigned task, Silk made efforts beyond his obligated duties simply to lighten the load for other soldiers.

    When he was a medevac crew chief, he would offer the crew chiefs from C Co. help by telling them he would be there for them if they ever needed anything, no matter what time of day, said Bush.

    In addition to his job, Silk was more than dedicated to his family.

    “… I’m as free as a bird now, and this bird you cannot change …”

    His friends and fellow soldiers send their love and prayers to his family in this time of loss, knowing he will be sorely missed.

    Silk’s family was very important to him, said O’Hare. He talked about them regularly and often told funny stories about him and his brothers getting into trouble, which always made people laugh.

    Silk was honored to be a part of such a loving family.

    “He was especially proud of being a crew chief because his old man was a Chinook crew chief,” said O’Hare. “He was very proud to be following in his father’s footsteps.”
    In addition to honor and pride, Silk expressed unconditional love for his family.

    He had a lot of admiration for his parents, Mark and Lynn Silk, said O’Hare. He loved and missed his wife Kayce and one-year-old stepson Brayden very much.

    “He loved Brayden,” said Legarreta. “He said that no matter how bad of a day he was having, Brayden’s smile would light up his day.”

    Silk was also very proud of his Irish heritage.

    He would quote the old Irish saying, “May you spend a half hour in heaven before the devil knows you are dead,” said O’Hare.

    I know you don’t have to worry about that half hour,” said O’Hare to Silk at his memorial ceremony. “All I know is that in my half hour, we will be sharing a cold pint of Guinness.”

    The tragic loss of Silk was a difficult experience suffered by everyone who knew and loved him, challenging them to carry on their highest hopes for a bright future.

    “… Please don’t take it so badly …”

    Friends and co-workers of Silk can not help but smile when they think of him. After all, that is the way he would have wanted it to be.

    “As our memory of him makes us smile, we must remember that he would hug us if he could, smack us in the arm, then crack a joke to make us laugh and let us know that it’ll be alright,” said Capt. Matthew Hodges, C Co., TF No Mercy commander. “And as we grieve, we must remember that Brandon would want us to endure.”

    Silk was a jokester, always wanting to have a good time and make people laugh.
    During one flight which was transporting Australian soldiers, Silk began speaking with an Australian accent over the radio which confused the rest of the crew, said Legarreta. He was so good at doing impersonations that the crew thought he was an Australian soldier speaking to them.

    Silk loved life, and was always happy. His positive energy had a way of permeating other people’s spirits, and motivating his fellow NCOs, soldiers and officers.

    “He was always 100 percent positive,” said LoFranco. “An attitude and mentality like that is contagious”

    You could always rely on Silk to counteract a negative feeling or experience.
    “With a true smile you couldn’t help but respond to, I could always count on him to see the silver lining in any situation,” said Hodges.

    Silk believed that life was good and there was always a bright side to everything.
    “He had an amazing outlook on life,” said O’Hare. “He lived it to the fullest.”

    Silk had a way of cheering people up on their darkest days.

    “His presence had a way of brightening up a dark room,” said Legarreta. “No matter what, he would make us laugh.”

    Silk had a sincere love for other people, always making it his priority to raise their spirits.

    “He truly cared about other people and made sure that they were taken care of,” said Legarreta. “When he was flying with the medevacs, he would go visit the patients in the hospital he had helped transport.”

    He always had a good attitude and a smile on his face.

    “He would have been a good person to know all the way through life,” said Bush. “You would have been laughing the whole time.”

    He kept his fellow Soldier’s spirits high, and they looked up to him.

    “He was a super morale builder,” said McCormick. “You could be having the worst day, and when he would walk in the room with his antics and zaniness, you would forget all about your problems.”

    Silk was well known for building people up, personally and professionally.

    “Brandon never let his sheer determination to succeed and see his unit succeed waver,” said Hodges. “Always the optimist, he constantly provided me with solutions and ideas to help make this company, his battalions and our lives better.”

    He was constantly making great achievements within his unit and to the lives of his fellow soldiers.

    “Brandon was by far the most proficient, diligent and hard working crew chief out there,” said LoFranco. “He always sought to improve himself as a crew chief beyond the scope of his position.”

    He wanted to know every skill or task relevant to his job.

    He would study anything to better himself and the people he was training, said LoFranco.

    Silk would improve anything within his reach.

    “He brought a level of training and instruction that is rare in any unit,” said LoFranco. “He changed the way things were operationally and the way people were expected to act and perform.”

    Silk was an outstanding instructor, successfully progressing his Soldiers and his unit to a higher level.

    “He took the job personally,” said O’Hare. “If someone didn’t understand something, he would weed out the advanced technical concepts and break it down to something they could understand.”

    Silk had a way of connecting with other crew chiefs.

    He loved to train soldiers, he took great pride in being able to teach them in a way they could understand, said Bush.

    Every trainee learns differently. They may need hands-on training or to read the methods from a manual.

    “He could judge a person’s character and focus on what he needed to teach them based upon that,” said Staff Sgt. Shilo Barker, C Co., TF No Mercy standardization instructor.

    His trainees progressed very quickly, because he had a unique way of getting through to them, said Barker. He could take the most complex task and break it down to be the simplest concept anyone could understand.

    Silk’s passion for his job was operant, excelling him as a flight instructor.

    “As a crew chief, there are certain steps that have to be second nature to you, like reacting immediately to certain situations,” said McCormick. “Constant awareness is the key to a successful mission.”

    His success in training soldiers will live on throughout their careers and be passed to the next generation of Army crew chiefs.

    Silk was the perfect example of a good role model and noncommissioned officer.
    “If there was nothing to do, he would grab a logbook or find something productive for him and his soldiers to do together,” said O’Hare. “The younger guys really looked up to him.”

    He set a standard for crew chiefs and door gunners.

    “When they saw him, they knew what they should strive to be like,” said LoFranco.
    Silk was constantly working to improve productivity.

    He would work constantly throughout the duty days to show others what needed to be done, said Spc. Anthony Smith, a Blackhawk crew chief Silk was responsible for. He was the epitome of a good NCO and a good friend. He was always there for everybody, no matter what.

    Crew chiefs work long and demanding hours. They always benefitted from Silk’s attitude, said Barker. He always motivated them, getting them excited about their job.
    He was constantly setting a positive example for Soldiers in every way.

    “The crew chiefs picked up on things that he did, making them stronger,” said Barker. “He was a good example to soldiers.”

    He always knew what to say to put people’s apprehensions at ease.

    On missions where other Soldiers may have been nervous, Silk would tell jokes or explain the mission, whatever that Soldier needed at the time to lighten their mood, said Bush.

    He had a special way of influencing people’s lives personally and professionally.

    “He was the kind of Soldier every leader wants to have, the kind of man every man wants to be and the kind of brother every family wants,” said O’Hare.

    In the end, Silk found happiness in his family, friends, soldiers and achievements. His courage lives on through the soldiers he influenced and the lives he has touched. His humor and fun loving nature has made his life impossible to forget.

    Throughout his life he has left a countless number of people laughing, smiling and happier than ever. Now he remains in our hearts and minds the same way, influencing us to make the best out of life and to enjoy every second.

    “… Won’t you fly high, free bird …”



    Date Taken: 08.13.2010
    Date Posted: 08.13.2010 04:44
    Story ID: 54510

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