NY National Guard honours UH-60 crash aircrew

NY National Guard honours UH-60 crash aircrew 4 Feb, 21, Source: New York Army National Guard
The New York Army National Guard honored two of the three Soldiers killed in a UH-60 helicopter crash outside Rochester on January 20, during funeral services held in Western New York and the Hudson Valley on Jan. 29 and 30.

Maj. Gen. Ray Shields, the adjutant general of New York, attended funeral services for Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Prial in Warwick, New York on Saturday, Jan. 30.

Brig. Gen. Jack James, the commander of the 53rd Troop Command and former commander of the 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade, represented the adjutant general at funeral services for Chief Warrant Officer 4 Christian Koch in Geneseo, New York on Jan. 29.

A memorial service was held for the third Soldier killed in the crash, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Steven Skoda in Johnston, New York. Funeral services will be held for him at a later date.

The New York Army National Guard honor guard provided full military honors for each Soldier and a flyover of four UH-60s was conducted at Prial’s service.

The Koch funeral service was held at the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo, New York in order to accommodate fellow Soldiers.

“In life we are defined by our choices…Christian loved to fly, it defined him, he was the best,” said New York Army National Guard Maj. Christopher Gagliardo, a fellow pilot and friend during the service.

“I called Christian my best friend, but Christian is everyone’s best friend,” Gagliardo said. “Look around, anyone here today will describe themselves as one of Christian’s best friends…Christian Koch is everyone’s best friend, because he made you feel that way.”

Koch, 29, was a 20-year veteran of the New York Army National Guard. He first served as an infantryman before becoming a helicopter pilot in 2006.

He deployed to Afghanistan in 2012- 2013 and served in Iraq in 2008-2009.

Koch served as a senior instructor pilot and instrument flight instructor for the UH-60 Black Hawk, as well as the CH-47 Chinook. He had 2,350 flying hours. In his civilian life he worked as a pilot for the New York State Police.

Koch’s brother Scott spoke about his devotion to flying, especially the medical evacuation mission, devoted to rescuing others.

“It’s humbling to be in the company of so many of the people who run toward the sound of gunfire or rush into the flames just for the chance to help their fellow man,” Scott Koch said.

“To be one of them requires training and sacrifice. There are no guarantees. There’s no guarantee of safety or wealth or sometimes even of happiness. Nevertheless, they get up, put on the uniform and stand to. Christian did, his comrades will continue to do so. The rest of us can just pray for their safety, cherish the time we have with them and wait until we can see those who we’ve lost again on the other side.”

Prial grew up in Warwick and then graduated from the nearby United States Military Academy at West Point.

“There are so many ways to describe Danny Prial, but the word that comes immediately to mind is joy,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Joseph Giroux. “Danny embodied joy. And so much more but, today, words are hard to come by.”

“If you knew Danny, you loved Danny,” said his father, Greg. “He knew love, he knew what it was to be loved. He got cheated out of time, but he didn’t get cheated out of life.”

Prial was interred at the United States Military Academy cemetery.
Prial, 30, entered the Army in 2012. He served as a medical evacuation platoon leader with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade.

He deployed to Afghanistan in 2014 and 2015 with the 82nd Airborne Division and went on to serve as an instructor pilot for students at Fort Rucker, Alabama, where the Army trains helicopter pilots.

“He loved flying, He loved serving. He loved being part of something bigger than himself.” his father said.

Prial was rated to fly the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and had 670 flying hours.

The Skoda family plans a military funeral with full honors at the Saratoga National Cemetery near Schuylerville, New York later this spring.

Skoda, 54, was a 35-year veteran who initially served in the active Army from 1985 to 1987 before joining the Army National Guard 1987.
He had flown almost 30 years as a pilot. He deployed to Afghanistan in 2013 and again in 2019.

A senior instructor pilot and an instrument flight instructor, as well as a UH-60 maintenance test pilot, Skoda had almost 5,000 flying hours.

The aircraft and crew were assigned to Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion, 171st General Support Aviation Battalion. The unit trains to perform aeromedical evacuation, providing rescue and medical treatment of casualties from the battlefield.

Giroux said Prial and the crew are heroes, because after visiting the crash site, he noticed that numerous homes surround the field where the aircraft came down.

“Whatever happened in the final moments of their flight,” Giroux said, “they sacrificed themselves to protect the people in those homes.”

An Army Safety Investigation team from the Army Safety Center at Fort Rucker, Alabama, continues its analysis and investigation of the accident.

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