Pa. National Guard Pilots Killed in Afghanistan

Jarett Yoder was a man who truly followed his dreams.

“He always dreamed of being an Apache pilot and he followed those dreams to continue to fight for our country,” said his wife Heather.

Heather and the rest of the nation are mourning the loss of Jarett as well as Matthew Ruffner, two Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers who were killed during a helicopter crash in Afghanistan on Tuesday.

Ruffner, 34, of Harrisburg, was a Chief Warrant Officer 3. Yoder, 26, of Mohnton, was a Chief Warrant Officer 2. The two men were piloting an AH-64 Apache helicopter during a reconnaissance mission when their aircraft crashed in the Nangarhar Province. The accident is currently under investigation.

Both men served with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard’s Company B, 1-104th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, based at Fort Indiantown Gap. The battalion mobilized for deployment to Afghanistan last August.

“Susan and I offer our sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of Matthew Ruffner and Jarett Yoder, who died serving their country,” said Governor Tom Corbett. “We pray for the safe return of the thousands of Pennsylvania National Guard members currently deployed, and we are grateful to each one of them and their families for the sacrifices they are making on our nation’s behalf.

Ruffner graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2003. He worked as a full-time Apache instructor pilot for the Pennsylvania National Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility at Fort Indianatown Gap. He joined the military in 1997, serving as a mechanic in the Army Reserve’s 705th Transportation Company in Dayton, Ohio. He then transferred to the Army National Guard’s 110th Infantry in Indiana, Pennsylvania. In 2005, he served as an aviation life support equipment officer, tactical operations officer and instructor pilot. During his career, he won the Army Achievement Medal, three Army Reserve Component Achievement Medals and the Parachutist Badge.

Yoder graduated from Oley Valley High School in Oley, Pennsylvania back in 2005 and attended Reading Community College. He joined the military in 2005, first serving in Company C, 1st Battalion 111th Infantry as an infantryman. He was deployed to Iraq in 2008 with Company C and the rest of the 56th Stryker Brigade. In 2010, he served as an aviation life support equipment officer and Apache pilot. His awards include the Army Commendation Medal, Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge and Driver and Mechanic Badge.

“Jarett is my American Hero,” said Heather. “Jarett died doing what he loved and dreamed of doing, a true hero. There are so many people who love him and we will never forget. I love you, always and forever.” 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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