July 3, 2005
Friends and family of Clarks Grove, Minnesota, native Corey Goodnature are mourning the Army Warrant Officer's death in Afghanistan. Goodnature was a helicopter pilot with a special operations unit. He was among 16 soldiers killed when their Chinook helicopter was shot down in the deadliest single incident for U.S. troops fighting the insurgency in Afghanistan.
St. Paul, Minn. — Don Goodnature knew his son, Corey, was flying dangerous missions in the Middle East. But Corey had returned safely from so many of those missions that the father never expected to hear of his son's death.
"We knew that there was dangers. But, see, this was his third tour of duty in Afghanistan. And also, he had one tour in Iraq," says Goodnature. "So, after that many times over there, we got kind of complacent because we got thinking, 'Well, he's already done this before. He's done this three other times, it's not that big a deal.' And he made us feel real comfortable by telling us that it was OK, too."
Corey Goodnature had grown comfortable behind the controls of a helicopter during 14 years in the Army. He flew with an elite unit known within the Army as the 160th. Part of the Third Battalion, the group is named SOAR, an acronym for Special Operations Aviation Regiment. It's members are also known as the Night Stalkers.
Don Goodnature says his son was driven by the goal of becoming a military pilot. So driven, that he changed his plans more than once to realize that ambition.
After graduating from Albert Lea High School, Corey enrolled in the University of Minnesota and its ROTC program. But this was in the late 1980s, and Don says in those days the U.S. military was shrinking rather than expanding.
"He was in Air Force ROTC with a pilot's slot. And then lost that because of the cuts. Then he got into the Marines and had a pilot's slot with them in ROTC. Then that got cut," Goodnature recalls. "He just enlisted in the Army and worked his way up, took all the necessary tests, went through warrant officer school, and accomplished what he'd planned on doing."
Along the way, Corey married and fathered two sons, who are now 12 and 14. His military career continued to blossom, and his father says in the past year or so, he had become one of the lead pilots in the 160th.
"The longer he was a pilot and the longer he was in the 160th, he just got more confident all the time. I mean, they were the best at what they do. We always heard it was the best pilots in the world that were in the 160th," says Goodnature.
On Tuesday, eight members of the 160th and eight Navy Seals were aboard a helicopter that was sent into the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, in an effort to rescue another military team -- some of whom remain missing.
Don Goodnature says the family knows few details other than that the Chinook was shot down in rugged terrain. This week the family will head to Savannah, Georgia, where the 160th is based. A Thursday ceremony will honor the eight regiment members killed in the attack.
Since U.S. troops ousted the Taliban regime, Goodnature says Afghanistan seems to have faded from public consciousness, as more of the country's attention has been focused on events in Iraq.
"Afghanistan's really on the back burner, I think. People don't realize what's going on there. We just don't hear about it and I think it's very important. It really brings it home when something like this happens," he says.
After this week's ceremony in Savannah, Goodnature says his son's remains will be sent back to Minnesota, where a service is planned for later in the month. Corey Goodnature will be buried in Albert Lea.