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Alaska soldier killed in Afghanistan helicopter crash

U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Jacob M. Sims, 36, of Juneau was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017. Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Defense.

A U.S. Army soldier from Skagway was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan Friday, military officials and the man's family said.

Chief Warrant Officer Jacob Michael Sims, 36, died in a helicopter crash in Logar Province, Afghanistan, the Department of Defense said in a statement.

Six other U.S. crew members were injured. The cause of the crash is under investigation, according to NATO's Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan.

A provincial governor's spokesman told Stars and Stripes that the helicopter had "taken troops to the Kharwar district for a night raid" when it hit a tree, according to the newspaper.

Stars and Stripes reported that the NATO coalition denied that the crash was the result of enemy action. It's not clear whether Sims was the pilot of the helicopter that crashed.

Sims joined the Army in 1999 and trained as a combat engineer before becoming a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter pilot, according to a biographical statement from the U.S. Army's Special Operations Command.

The Department of Defense listed his hometown as Juneau. But Sims' sister-in-law Trisha Sims said he grew up in Skagway and graduated from school there. Sims' parents briefly lived in Juneau around the time that he joined the military, Trisha Sims said.

Sims was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 160 Special Operations Aviation Regiment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State. The unit is known as the "Night Stalkers."

He was a decorated veteran of numerous overseas operations in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, according to his biography.  His awards included an Air Medal and a Joint Service Commendation Medal.

"Jacob lived by a creed that few understand and even fewer embody," said Colonel Philip Ryan, the commander of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. "He will not be forgotten and his legacy will endure through his family, friends and fellow Night Stalkers."

Alaska Governor Bill Walker on Sunday ordered that U.S. and Alaska flags be lowered to half-staff in honor of Sims.

"Chief Warrant Officer Sims and his family made the ultimate sacrifice for the rest of us," Walker said in a statement. "Byron, Toni, Donna and I are holding his parents, his wife and his children in our daily prayers. While our state and our country lost a dedicated soldier, they lost their son, husband and father. Our military service members put themselves on the line in defense of the values we hold dear. We owe them a debt of gratitude."

* A previous version of this story listed the hometown of Chief Warrant Officer Jacob M. Sims as Juneau, based on Department of Defense information. Sims' family says he grew up in Skagway.

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