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4 from Fort Lewis killed in helicopter crash in Iraq

Five more Fort Lewis soldiers have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, officials said Wednesday.

Four of the 14 service members killed in a helicopter crash Wednesday in northern Iraq were assigned to the Army post. Investigators think mechanical failure caused the crash.

In addition, the Pentagon on Wednesday identified the first soldier stationed at Fort Lewis to die in Afghanistan in two years.

A Fort Lewis spokesman confirmed Wednesday afternoon that the four soldiers — the pilot, copilot and two crew members — and the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter that crashed were assigned to the 4th Squadron, 6th Air Cavalry, which deployed to the region in May.

The names of the 14 soldiers have not been released, pending the notification of families.

The helicopter went down before dawn in the Tamim province that surrounds Kirkuk, an oil-rich city 180 miles north of Baghdad, Lt. Col. Michael Donnelly, a military spokesman in northern Iraq, told The Associated Press.

It was one of two helicopters and had just picked up troops after a mission when it crashed, Donnelly said.

It is the second fatal helicopter crash for the Fort Lewis-based aviation unit since it deployed to Iraq.

Chief Warrant Officer Scott Oswell, 33, died July 4 when the helicopter he was flying struck a power line in Mosul, in northern Iraq. Oswell and his wife, Cheri, had purchased a home near Lacey before he deployed.

The Pentagon also identified an Army Ranger stationed at Fort Lewis who died from injuries suffered in a "non-combat-related incident" in Afghanistan.

Spc. George V. Libby, 23, of Aberdeen, N.C., died on Monday near Khowst, a city in southeastern Afghanistan near the Pakistan border.

No further details about his death were available Wednesday, but the military said the incident is under investigation.

Libby was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, which is stationed at Fort Lewis but takes its orders from U.S. Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C.

He is the third Army Ranger assigned to Fort Lewis to die in Afghanistan since the U.S. launched military strikes against the Taliban regime in October 2001.

Valorie Libby, who lives in Tacoma, said in a prepared statement that her husband was a good and loving person who died for the nation's freedom.

"George joined the Army because of Sept. 11," she said. "He believed in this mission, and I believed in him."

He also is survived his parents and his brother, all of North Carolina.

Libby completed the Ranger indoctrination program in September 2005.

Two soldiers, Lt. Laura Walker and Sgt. Robert Davis, died in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan on Aug. 18, 2005. They were assigned to the 864th Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy).

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Christian Hill covers the city of Lacey and military for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-5427 or chill@theolympian.com.

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