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U.S. Ranger sought to be the Army's `best soldier'
Pfc. Kristofor Stonesifer, one of two Army Rangers killed in the crash of a Black Hawk helicopter, quit ROTC last year because it wasn't tough enough for him.
"All I really knew was, he wanted to be the best soldier in the U.S. Army, and the best soldiers in the Army are in the Ranger battalion," said Lt. Col. Jim Clegg, professor of military science and head of the ROTC program at the University of Montana, where Stonesifer went to school.
The Pentagon announced Sunday that Stonesifer, 28, and Spc. Jonn J. Edmunds, 20, of Cheyenne, Wyo., were the Rangers killed in Pakistan when their helicopter crashed during poor visibility as the United States expanded its attacks on terrorist strongholds in Afghanistan. They served with the 75th Ranger Regiment based at Ft. Benning, Ga.
Clegg said that Stonesifer dropped out of ROTC after his junior year and enlisted in the Army because the university's ROTC unit wasn't intense enough for him. Stonesifer had joined the program at the Missoula campus in August 1999 and continued until his enlistment in May 2000.
"He was a very mature and focused young man, one of my top two cadets in a very challenging year; that's the junior year in an ROTC program," Clegg said. "He was a little older, and he had been around a little bit. He made better decisions than some of the younger cadets made."
Stonesifer was "a solid student" academically and "was learning the skills required to be a second lieutenant, leadership skills," Clegg said.
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) said in a release that the deaths would bring people in his state closer together "as we grieve with the families of the fallen, help those in need and stand up against our enemies."
"I'm proud of Specialist Edmunds and Private Stonesifer and all of the men and women who put their lives on the line for our country," Enzi said. "We are behind you."
Officials would not disclose the role of the Black Hawk, but some believe it was preparing to cross into Afghanistan in case Rangers had to be rescued.
Capt. Elizabeth Ortiz, an Air Force spokeswoman in Europe, said the bodies were flown to Germany's Ramstein Air Base. "Appropriate military honors were rendered when they arrived," she said Sunday.
She declined to say when the remains would be returned to the United States.