NATO Crash: Communities Mourn Loss of Troops Killed in Afghanistan

Tragedy in Afghanistan: The Mission
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American communities are mourning the loss of 30 U.S. troops who were killed when Afghan insurgents shot down a helicopter carrying the most elite forces in the US military -- Navy SEALs -- along with Air Force and Army personnel, U.S. officials said.

Saturday's crash occurred near a Taliban stronghold in Wardak province in Afghanistan.

On board the Chinook helicopter there were 30 Americans -- including 22 SEALs -- as well as eight Afghans and a dog trained specifically for special operations.

U.S. forces were engaged in a firefight on the ground and the helicopter was on its way to help, when it was shot down probably by a rocket propelled grenade, U.S. officials said.

Most of the 22 SEALs were part of SEAL Team 6, the heroic unit that carried out the raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound in May, though none of those who actually took part in that raid were believed to be on the helicopter.

U.S. special operations teams carry out up to a dozen missions a day in Afghanistan.

After the crash, the forces that were involved in the firefight "broke contact" with the enemy so they could go provide perimeter security for the crash site, the official said.

Additional forces were then sent to secure the crash site.

It's unclear how far away the helicopter was from the initial firefight when it went down and unclear how the troops in the firefight got to the crash location.

Although the Taliban have claimed to have shot the helicopter down, U.S. officials have only identified the attackers as insurgents.

On July 25, a Chinook was hit by a rocket propelled grenade fired by the Taliban. It launched in the belly of the aircraft which made a hard landing and only two soldiers were injured in that attack but this time all on board were killed.

The last worst one-day U.S. casuality record in Afghanistan was on June 28, 2005 when 16 U.S. soldiers were killed in Kunar province after a helicopter was shot down by Taliban insurgents.

President Obama offered his thoughts and prayers to those killed in the crash.

"Their deaths are a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices made by the men and women of our military and their families, including all who have served in Afghanistan," Obama said in a statement.

Town Remembers Loss

In the tight knit navy town of Virginia Beach, Va. the loss is felt by everyone.

"It's high risk, but you know it's the call of duty for your country," said Joseph Villasenor, a former army member.

It is a far cry from the jubilation that swept the community after Bin Laden was killed by their hometown heroes.

Even here, the identities of the Seal Team Six are kept secret but now their names will likely become public under the worst of circumstances.

"There's a lot of seals that come from here. It's weird to think that someone you see on the street could be gone right now," said resident Derek Carter.

Losing 22 men all at once comes as a sharp blow to families and friends of the navy SEALs, like Geneva Vaughn, the grandmother of Aaron Vaughn, one of the men killed in the crash.

"I'm very proud of him. He was such a good boy and he loved his country…and I talked to him on his birthday he said granny he said 'don't worry about me I'm not afraid," she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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