Screaming Eagles Through Time
SSgt. Paul M. Neff


Fort Mill, South Carolina
Killed in action November 7, 2003

SSgt. Paul M. Neff II

Mother remembers son killed in Iraq

COLUMBIA, S.C. - A helicopter crewman killed in Iraq "loved the Army" and joined just a few months after graduating from Fort Mill High School, his parents said Monday.

"He had the option of getting out about three years ago and he didn't. He loved it and wanted to be there," said Judy Baker, mother of Staff Sgt. Paul Neff II, who was killed Friday when his Black Hawk helicopter was shot down in Tikrit.

"He loved the Army," said Baker, who now lives in Spring Hill, Fla.

Neff was one of six soldiers killed in the incident. He was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division based in Fort Campbell, Ky.

Neff, 30, joined the Army after graduating high school in 1991, said his father, retired Navy Chief Petty Officer Paul Neff.

"He liked what he was doing," said the elder Neff, now of West Branch, Mich.

Baker said her son loved being outdoors, but the Army was his calling.

"It was what he wanted to do. I don't know if it was instilled in him from family, but that was his choice. He wanted to be a pilot, but he knew he couldn't do that so he went to the helicopters."

She said her son was concerned about going off to war - particularly because he was the single parent of a 9-year-old son - but felt it was his duty to serve.

"Nobody wants to go off to war," she said. "But he knew that was expected of him. He was there to do that.

"We never know what is mapped out for us. I know we weren't the only family, my heart goes out to the others that were involved. I know they had kids and mothers and fathers, too. Our heart goes out to everybody."

The younger Neff, who was divorced, was planning to marry his fiancee, Sabrina Campbell, when he returned home, his father said. The couple lived in Clarksville, Tenn.

Neff said he wanted his son to be known as a sergeant, first class.

"When a person dies, he automatically is eligible for a promotion," Neff said through tears. "He deserves sergeant, first class."

SC soldier among 6 US soldiers killed in chopper crash Friday in Iraq

(Columbia-AP) Nov. 10, 2003 - The United States Department of Defense says a staff sergeant killed when a helicopter was shot down in Iraq is from Fort Mill. He is the second serviceman from South Carolina who died in a helicopter crash in less than one week in Iraq.

Staff Sergeant Paul M. Neff II, assigned to the 101st Airborne, was riding in a Black Hawk helicopter when it was shot down Friday in Tikrit, Iraq. The 30-year-old Neff and five other soldiers were killed in the incident. The military says the chopper was hit by a rocket propelled grenade near Tikrit.

The military hasn't confirmed if hostile fire or some kind of mechanical failure brought the helicopter down, though some have said it appears more likely the blame lies with hostile fire.

Neff graduated from Fort Mill High School in 1991 and joined the service soon afterward. Neff was a member of the 5th Battalion, 101st Airborne Division based in Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Neff's cousin Mike Waldbridge told The Herald of Rock Hill that Neff earned a Bronze Star for heroic achievement a few weeks ago and has an 8-year-old son.

Neff's parents and sister no longer live in Fort Mill, but friends remembered him as a someone who loved nature. Chris Nies of Fort Mill says Neff enjoyed the outdoors, fishing and riding motorcycles.

On November 2nd a US Army Chinook helicopter was shot down near Fallujah, killing 15 soldiers and injuring more than 20. One of those was 22-year-old Army Specialist Darius T. Jennings, of Cordova.

Tentative funeral arrangements for Jennings are set for Saturday at Edisto High School. Ten South Carolina soldiers have died in Iraq since the war started.

101st remembers fallen Black Hawk crew

By PFC. THOMAS DAY U.S. Army 40th Public Affairs Detachment

QAYARRAH, Iraq The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) used Veterans Day to remember the four fallen "Screaming Eagles" of the Nov. 7 helicopter crash at a ceremony in Qayarrah.

Capt. Benedict J. Smith, Chief Warrant Officer Kyran E. Kennedy, Staff Sgt. Paul M. Neff, and Staff Sgt. Scott C. Rose, all members of the 5th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, were killed in a crash after an attack in Tikrit Friday. Their fellow aviators honored their sacrifices at the 101st Airborne's "Q-West" Airfield, under the shadows of two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters the type of aircraft in which the crew took their final flight into hostile fire.

The crew of Black Hawk 26431, "The Goat," were remembered on Veteran's Day as four unique individuals but with a common love of their families and trust in their fellow soldiers.

"In the deadly chaos of battle, soldiers hold trust and when they fight, they fight for each other because of the trust that resides in one another," said Lt. Col. Laura Richardson, 5-101st Aviation commander. "The crew of aircraft 26431 had that trust."

Capt. Ben Smith

The son of two Missouri pig farmers, Smith was remembered for his adoration of his wife, his affinity for bacon and his inability to keep his desk organized.

"The funny thing was, you could ask him for a specific memo or paper and he would only have to move two or three sheets to come up with it," said Capt. Patrick Patrino, who delivered Smith's eulogy.

Patrino recalled an experience in breakfast chow hall line where his friend's family roots shined. After Patrino refused bacon from a chow hall server, Smith "proceeded to load his plate up with bacon and told the server, I'll have the bacon that he didn't get'."

Smith recently married Capt. Maggie J. (Bradley) Smith before both deployed to Kuwait before the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom, she is with 9th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment.

CW3 Kyran Kennedy

Like another Democrat named Kennedy from Massachusetts, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Kyran Kennedy knew the value of doing what you can do for your country, recalled his friend Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jimmy McElhaney.

Kennedy, a native Bostonian and resident of Hopkinsville, Ky., loved a political debate among friends, which the Republican McElhaney was happy to give him over a cup of morning coffee.

Kennedy was the crew's safety officer, a responsibility he never took lightly. "He always came up with a way to do it safely," said McElhaney during the ceremony. "He was never there to say, no, we can't do it.' He just came up with other, safer ways to do it."

Kennedy was in his 16th year in the Army when his helicopter went down Friday. He is survived by his wife Kathy and children Christopher, 11, Kaitlyn, 9, and Kevin, 3.

Staff Sgt. Paul Neff

"He left us doing what he loved to do: fly," said Sgt. First Class Jerardo Gamino. "If he were standing here today, he would tell his soldiers, get in that aircraft, fly, do your job."

Neff was an honest non-commissioned officer, remembered his friend. He loved the Army, having grown up in Columbia, South Carolina, just miles from the Army's Fort Andrew Jackson. "He performed his job in an efficient, professional manor," said Gamino.

Neff asked his girlfriend Sabrina Campbell to marry him before the 101st Airborne Division deployed to Kuwait. She said yes. Neff is survived by Sabrina and his seven-year-old son Christopher.

Staff Sgt. Scott Rose

Like his crew-mate Kennedy, Staff Sgt. Scott Rose was born in Boston. He is the son of a retired colonel and father of five-month old Megan, his first child with wife Michele. He had never meet Megan.

Sgt. Bradley Green remembered the day his friend celebrated the Megan's birth this past summer. "He came to me and asked me if I was as nervous as he was when my daughter was born. Of course I said yes, and we talked for hours about being a dad and how wonderful it will be when we go home."

Just before Rose flew his last mission, he told Green that he would soon be leaving the unit to teach Advanced Individual Training in Fort Eustis, Va. Green told his friend that he would miss him. Rose replied facetiously, "you're not going to get all weepy eyed on me?"

"Well Scott, you got me all weepy eyed now."