The Minnesota Army National Guard on Saturday said three soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash near St. Cloud this past week, and among them was a 28-year-old McLeod County man.

The Guard identified the men who were killed in Thursday’s crash as Chief Warrant Officer 2 James Rogers Jr., 28, of Winsted; Sgt. Kort Plantenberg, 28, of Avon; and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Charles Nord, 30, of Perham. According to a tweet from the Minnesota National Guard, all three soldiers were part of a unit that returned last May from a nine-month deployment to the Middle East.

Rogers, who was born in Madelia June 23, 1991, graduated from St. James High School in 2010 and enlisted in the Minnesota Army National Guard in June 2009 as a field artillery specialist. In 2013, he became a Warrant Officer as a UH-60 Black Hawk pilot. While in the Middle East, his unit provided aerial medical evacuation in support of Operation Spartan Shield and Operation Inherent Resolve.

According to a press release from the Minnesota Army National Guard, at 1:55 p.m. on Thursday, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with the three soldiers on board took off from the St. Cloud Airport to conduct a routine maintenance flight. Shortly after takeoff, the pilots initiated a Mayday call and contact was lost with the aircraft. Local emergency responders began a search and rescue operation and found the downed aircraft at 4:15 p.m., near Kimball.

Gov. Tim Walz on Friday ordered all U.S. and Minnesota flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of the three soldiers who died.

“On behalf of all Minnesotans, we offer our deepest sympathies to the families of these warriors,” Walz said. “They paid the ultimate price and service to Minnesota and to the United States of America. Words will never ease the pain of this tragic loss and the state of Minnesota is forever in the debt of these warriors.”

District 18B Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen also released a statement on the deaths of the three soldiers.

“We are all eternally grateful for the service and sacrifice of Chief Warrant Officer Rogers,” he said. “I know Minnesotans will lift up in prayer the family members and loved ones of our fallen heroes, and do what we can to support them during this difficult time.”

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