Staff Sgt. Carl Enis, one of seven airmen killed Thursday in a helicopter crash in western Iraq, was remembered as an avid outdoorsman and devoted friend who had a knack for bringing people from different backgrounds together.
Enis, a 31-year-old Air Force Reserve airman and pararescueman with the 308th Rescue Squadron, 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, also worked as a commercial real estate salesman for TLG Real Estate Services in Tallahassee.
Ben Wilkinson, the president and co-owner of TLG, said in a Friday interview that when he met Enis four years ago, he was struck by what a “steady” and “solid guy” Enis was, and they quickly became close friends.
“He was golden,” Wilkinson said. “He was a great guy. Carl seemed to have met more people than you could ever imagine for someone his age. Honest to God, no one ever spoke an ill word about him.”
Wilkinson spoke to Air Force Times after receiving permission from Enis’ family. The Tallahassee Democrat first reported Enis was one of the service members killed in the helicopter crash.
The New York City Fire Department on Friday said on its Facebook page that two of its firefighters — Christopher Raguso and Christopher Zanetis — also died in the crash.
ABC 7 in New York on Friday reported that Raguso, Zanetis, and two other airmen killed in the crash were from the 106th Rescue Wing of the New York Air National Guard. The TV station said Raguso was a master sergeant.
Seven American troops were killed when an HH-60 Pave Hawk went down in Anbar Province, Iraq, near the town of al Qa’im. Defense officials said Thursday that the crash did not appear to be the result of enemy fire, and that the incident is under investigation.
The Pave Hawk is often used for combat search and rescue. But an official said it was not under fire and was on a routine route to move the helicopter from one location to another.
Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, spokesman for U.S. Air Forces Central Command, said in an email Friday that two of the seven airmen killed were pararescuemen. The Defense Department is expected to post the names and units of the airmen Saturday afternoon, he said.
The Pave Hawk was deployed to AFCENT from the Alaska Air National Guard’s 176th Wing from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska, Pickart said. None of the airmen killed were from that unit or base, he said.
Wilkinson said Enis was originally from Miami and both his parents were doctors.
“He wanted to serve, and he wanted to parlay his skills and [medical] talents with that into something,” Wilkinson said. “He never spoke, really, about himself. But he talked about what his unit did, and what the different guys [were doing] and the different training.”
In a 2015 video on a first responder and disaster preparedness exercise called Guardian Angel, Enis ― who said he had been a PJ for three years at that point ― described what drew him to that career field.
“Sounded like a pretty fun job, and you get to help people,” Enis said.
Enis loved the outdoors and hunting birds and big game, Wilkinson said. He hunted deer with Wilkinson at his farm, and went duck hunting in Mississippi, he said. He enjoyed offshore fishing, spear fishing and diving, Wilkinson said.
Often, Enis would bring his fellow airmen hunting with Wilkinson and his friends at the real estate firm, helping forge new friendships between people from different circles.
“He expanded my circle of friends a great deal,” Wilkinson said. “He had a unique knack for assimilating in and becoming a major part of whatever he was in without being intrusive or over the top.”
Enis is survived by his wife, his mother, and his brother, Wilkinson said.
“He loved his wife and he loved her family,” Wilkinson said. “He was part of their group. Everybody’s just in shock.”
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.