MIAMI - U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Carl Enis, who grew up in Pinecrest and lived in Tallahassee, was among the seven troops killed when a twin-turboshaft engine helicopter used for combat search and rescue crashed Thursday afternoon in western Iraq, according to the Department of Defense. He was 31.
The Sikorsky HH-60 Pave Hawk, a modified version of the Black Hawk helicopter, crashed about a three-hour drive from the Ayn al-Asad Air Base, a U.S. and Iraqi armed forces base in Anbar province. The coalition's base is involved in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
"Carl was the most amazing person," a lifelong family friend and combat military veteran who asked to remain anonymous said. "He was an avid outdoorsman, who loved to fish, hunt and dive. You can’t even imagine how special he was."
An accompanying U.S. helicopter reported the crash about 2:45 p.m. It was close to an outpost in al Qa'im, an Iraqi town near the Syrian border where there was a U.S. strike that destroyed an enemy supply route Thursday, according to a strike report. A defense official told the Military Times the helicopter was on a routine route and was not under fire.
Enis was serving as a pararescueman, or PJ, a special forces operator tasked with recovery and medical treatment of personnel in humanitarian and combat environments. He was a member of the elite 308th Rescue Squadron from Patrick Air Force Base near Cocoa Beach in Brevard County.
"It sounded like a pretty fun job and I get to help people, so I tried it out and it worked for me," Enis said in a 2015 recruiting video. "I mean, it is the most realistic training I have gotten."
The combat medic was highly trained. He was an expert with maps, compasses and survival methods. Aside from scuba diving, his skills also included parachuting, rappelling, skiing, snowmobiling and motorcycling.
"This tragedy reminds us of the risks our men and women face every day in service of our nations. We are thinking of the loved ones of these service members today," Coalition spokesman Brig. Gen. Jonathan P. Braga said in a statement.
Before joining the military, Enis graduated from Gulliver Preparatory School in Pinecrest and Florida State University, where he earned a master's degree in business administration. He had a commercial real estate license with TLG Real Estate Services in Tallahassee.
"Carl Enis was the most stable, genuine, selfless and talented man I have ever known," Dan Sherraden wrote on Facebook.
Enis was known to wear his maroon beret with modesty. He was also known to tackle the physically, mentally and technically demanding job with a smile. It was a surprise to no one who knew him that the PJ's creed was how he lived his life.
"It is my duty as a pararescueman to save life and to aid the injured. I will be prepared at all times to perform my assigned duties quickly and efficiently, placing these duties before personal desires and comforts. These things we do, that others may live."
Enis is survived by his wife, his brother, and his mother.
Four airmen from the 106th Rescue Wing of the New York Air National Guard were also killed in the attack. The New York City Fire Department identified two of the victims as Lt. Christopher J. Raguso and fire marshal Christopher T. "Tripp" Zanetis. Vice President Mike Pence tweeted the military was investigating the cause of the crash.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said, "they were truly two of New York City's bravest." President Donald Trump wrote a message for the troops' families on Twitter.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the brave troops lost in the helicopter crash on the Iraq-Syria border yesterday," Trump tweeted. "Their sacrifice in service to our country will never be forgotten."
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