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Naval Academy grad killed in Afghanistan

Air Transportation DisastersTransportation DisastersAfghanistanNational SecurityDefense

A 2006 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan on Thursday, the Marine Corps has confirmed. The 27-year-old was one of six Marines who died in the accident.

The Pentagon identified him as Marine Corps Capt. Daniel B. Bartle of Ferndale, Wash. A brief biography provided by officials at his base in Kaneohe, Hawaii, lists him as a pilot for the squadron called the "Red Lions," but it was unclear whether he was at the controls when the Vietnam-era CH-53 Sea Stallion went down in Helmand province.

"Men of humility and honor are rare in this world. Daniel lived these values every single day and inspired others to do the same," said a statement from Bartle's older brother, John. "He was a loving son, brother, uncle and friend, and though his death saddens us greatly, we are finding consolation in all the love, laughter and joy that he gave to those who were fortunate enough to know him."

Marine Corps Base Hawaii said Bartle reported for duty with Squadron 363 in July 2011, and he was on his second deployment to Afghanistan when he died. The Pentagon said Bartle's commendations included two Air Medals, a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and a National Defense Service Medal.

While at the academy, Bartle majored in electrical engineering, minored in Spanish and competed on the power lifting team, John Bartle said. He decided to apply to the academy after serving as a congressional page during high school, his brother said.

A spokesman for the Naval Academy was unable to provide information about Bartle on Saturday, and could not say how many graduates have been killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Department of Defense said Saturday that another Marine who died in Thursday's crash was from North Beach, Calvert County. They identified him as Cpl. Jesse W. Stites, 23, and said he had enlisted in 2009 and had been on his second deployment to Afghanistan.

But his father-in-law, Mark L. Schwalenberg, who lives in Idaho, said Stites grew up in Florida and went to high school there. Schwalenberg said Stites never lived in Maryland. There is no record of a Stites in North Beach, and the town's mayor, Mark Frazier, said he knew no one by that name.

Officials from the NATO-led coalition said a cause of the crash is under investigation, but that they were examining a possible "technical fault." They said there were no enemy troops in the area at the time. It was the worst crash in terms of deaths since 30 American personnel, including 22 Navy SEAL commandos, died in a helicopter crash in eastern Afghanistan in August.

The Marines who died were assigned to Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363 with the Marine Expeditionary Force. Primary duties in Afghanistan included transporting troops, food and supplies. Others who died were identified as Capt. Nathan R. McHone, 29, of Illinois, Master Sgt. Travis W. Riddick, 40, of Iowa, Cpl. Kevin J. Reinhard, 25, of New Jersey, and Cpl. Joseph D. Logan, 22, of Texas.

Riddick's father told the Des Moines Register that his son had done three tours of duty in Iraq and two in Afghanistan, and had served in the president's helicopter squadron, flying with Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

peter.hermann@baltsun.com

Wire services contributed to this article

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