Las Vegas Sun

November 19, 2018

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Nellis airman killed on Afghan rescue mission

A member of Nellis Air Force Base's 66th Rescue Squadron died Thursday from injuries suffered when the rescue helicopter he was in crashed in Afghanistan Wednesday.

Airman 1st Class Jesse M. Samek, 21, of Rogers, Ark., suffered critical injuries when the HH-60 Pave Hawk crashed while on a medical rescue mission, military officials said.

The search and rescue helicopter was dispatched late Wednesday night to evacuate an Afghani election official who had been accidentally shot in the arm by one of his personal security guards, Lt. Col. Pamela Keeton said this morning when reached at the coalition press information center in Kabul, Afghanistan.

"They couldn't stop the bleeding and a rescue team was sent out to pick up the official who works for the Joint Electoral Management Body," Keeton said.

The Pave Hawk crashed about 105 miles east of Shindand, Afghanistan, northwest of Kandahar, about 11 p.m. Wednesday. Samek, a flight engineer, was fatally injured in the crash.

The two other airmen and the wounded Afghani on the helicopter suffered non-life threatening injuries in the crash and were taken to a hospital at Kandahar Air Field, Keeton said.

The cause of the crash is under investigation, but was not the result of any kind of hostile action or combat, Keeton said.

Samek joined the Air Force in February and was assigned to Nellis and the 66th in June. The deployment to Afghanistan was his first, Nellis spokeswoman Capt. Maureen Schumann said.

Family members, reached this morning at Samek's parents' home in Rogers, said that his parents were out making funeral arrangements. The relatives said that they wanted to wait for Samek's parents, Gavin and Julia Samek, to return before making comments about Jesse.

As has been the case every time a member of the military connected to Nevada has been killed, elected officials are issuing statements of praise for Samek.

Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev., said, "Today, my thoughts and prayers are with the family of Jesse Samek. Airman Samek was an important part of the Nellis family who was dedicated to his mission and helped to save live of his fellow troops. He is a true American hero who defended his nation so that we may live in a more peaceful world."

Currently Nellis has about 300 airmen deployed around the world, including members of the 66th in Afghanistan.

The 66th can be deployed world-wide as a combat rescue group, and has sent airmen and Pave Hawks to Afghanistan and Iraq since the Sept. 11 attacks. The 66th is one of six Air Force active-duty HH-60 combat rescue units and is one of the most deployed units at Nellis.

Samek is the second military member with a Nevada tie to be killed in Afghanistan since the Sept. 11th attacks.

Cpl. Matthew Commons, a Boulder City High School graduate, was killed March 4, 2002, in Afghanistan. Commons, a 21-year-old Army Ranger with the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, was on a mission to rescue a U.S. soldier captured by al-Qaida when he was killed.

Five other Nevada servicemen have been killed while serving in the war in Iraq. The most recent was 26-year-old Marine Cpl. William Salazar, a Las Vegas resident who was killed Oct. 15 when a car bomb exploded near Qaim, along the Syrian border. Salazar was a member of Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

Another Las Vegas resident, 43-year-old Army Staff Sgt. Cameron Sarno, was killed Sept. 1, 2003, when he was hit by a truck in Kuwait. Sarno was a member of the Nevada Army Guard's 257th Transportation Co.

Army Capt. Joshua Byers, 29, of Sparks, was killed on July 23, 2003, outside Ramadi, Iraq, when the convoy he was riding in was attacked with explosives. Byers was a member of Fox Troop, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment.

Another Sparks resident, Marine Lance Cpl. Donald Cline, 21, was killed on March 23, 2003, during fighting near An Nasiryah, Iraq. Cline was a member of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

Marine Lt. Frederick Pokorney Jr., 31, of Tonopah, was killed the same day in the battle near that same city. Pokorney was a member of the 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade.