The aide-de-camp to the Air Force Academy superintendent was one of two airmen killed Sunday when a British helicopter crashed at Camp Resolute Support in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Maj. Phyllis J. Pelky, 45, was assigned to the Air Force Academy headquarters staff, according to an Academy news release. She was originally from Rio Rancho, New Mexico.
Master Sgt. Gregory T. Kuhse, 38, was also killed. Kuhse, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, was assigned to the 3rd Manpower Requirements Squadron at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.
Two British troops and a French contractor also died in Sunday’s crash.
"We are grieving a deeply felt loss today," Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, academy superintendent, said in a statement. "Our heartfelt condolences and prayers go out to the family and loved ones of Major Pelky and all those affected by this tragedy."
Both Pelky and Kuhse were part of Train Advise Assist Command – Air, which is in charge of training and mentoring Afghanistan’s air force, which is learning while fighting the Taliban.
“This was a tough loss for everyone,” Brigadier General Craige, TAAC-Air commander, said in a statement. “Maj. Pelky and Master Sgt. Kuhse were outstanding Airmen and will not be forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families.”
In addition to leading a 15-person team in charge of personnel and manpower support for 600 U.S. troops and civilians, coalition troops and contractors, Pelky also led gender integration efforts for the Afghan air force.
Capt. Eydie Sakura first met Pelky in March 2015 when the two were at the Air Advisor Academy at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. They were paired as roommates when they arrived in Afghanistan and quickly became friends.
“It is amazing how one person can make such a difference to so many people,” Sakrua said in a statement. “That is what Phyllis did—she made the world a better place for people both near and far. I knew her only seven months but our time together, and her sudden passing, changed my life forever.
“I had the distinct honor of bringing her home to her husband and two grown sons from Bagram to Dover. I guarantee she would have done the same for me. The outpouring of support and care from the Air Force family, at all ranks, is more than I had ever imagined. She was a great woman, friend, mother, wife, sister and airman.”
Kuhse, who worked for Pelky, was responsible for coordinating and planning critical U.S. and coalition manpower billets. He was also the principal advisor to Afghan air force manpower representatives.
“From the moment I met Greg, or for anyone who did, there was something about him that made him standout,” Tech Sgt. Nathan Raab said in a statement. “He was a truly genuine person that loved to make people he encountered smile. His uplifting spirit would brighten the darkest of places and that is something that his friends and family will be able to carry with them for him. He touched so many people's lives without even knowing it. The world lost a truly great man, husband, father, brother, son, family member, and my friend. Chicken pasta Greg.”
The cause of Sunday's helicopter crash has not been officially determined, but an Afghan security guard who reportedly witnessed the incident told The Associated Press that, as the helicopter was landing, it collided with a monitoring balloon. A spokeswoman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan confirmed that a Persistent Threat Reduction System came untethered on Sunday and was recovered after it landed outside the perimeter of the base, but she did not say if the helicopter ran into it.
Sunday’s crash happened a little more than a week after six U.S. airmen were killed on Oct. 2 when their C-130J crashed at Jalalabad Airfield shortly after takeoff. Four of the airmen were from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas: Capt. Jonathan J. Golden, 33; Capt. Jordan B. Pierson, 28; Staff Sgt. Ryan D. Hammond, 26; and Senior Airman Quinn L. Johnson-Harris, 21. Two airmen were stationed at Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts: Senior Airman Nathan C. Sartain, 29; and Airman 1st Class Kcey E. Ruiz, 21.
Two special operations airman were killed on Aug. 26 after men in Afghan security forces uniforms opened fire on them: Capt. Matthew D. Roland, 27; and Staff Sgt. Forrest B. Sibley, 31.