CW4 Patrick Leach

Killed in Action December 9, 2004

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. - One of two soldiers killed when a pair of U.S. helicopters collided in Iraq was a commercial airline pilot who had served in Operation Desert Storm. Warrant Officer Patrick Leach, 39, was one of the victims, said his parents, Bruce and Grace Leach of Tacoma.

"My son was doing what he had to do," said Bruce Leach Sr. "He hated to leave his family. But he went because he was told to go. He did his duty."

The Federal Way native, a member of the South Carolina National Guard, died Thursday when an AH-64 Apache struck an UH-60 Black Hawk on the ground in the city of Mosul. Leach's parents learned of his death Thursday night when they returned from a visit with his wife and children in Rock Hill, S.C. Officials in South Carolina identified the other soldier who died as Lt. Andrew Shields, also a Guardsman from that state. The four men wounded in the collision have returned to duty, said Lt. Col.
Paul Hastings, a spokesman for Task Force Olympia, which includes the Fort Lewis-based Stryker Brigade.

The accident was under investigation. Leach served in the active-duty Army from 1986 to 1992 and was deployed to Iraq in 1991 as part of Operation Desert Storm. Before his guard unit was called up, Leach was an airline pilot and regional jet captain for six years at Mesa Airlines, which flies US Airways Express flights out of Charlotte.

"Pat's life's ambition was to be a pilot," brother-in-law John Landstreet said. "He lived for that and his family. This is just devastating." Leach is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and their three children, a 4-year-old daughter and two boys, ages 2 years and 7 months. He also has 19- and 17-year-old sons from a previous marriage.

About two dozen Apaches and a half-dozen Black Hawks from the South Carolina National Guard's 1st Battalion, 151st Aviation Regiment, are stationed in northern Iraq as part of Task Force Olympia. The unit was deployed in October with the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, based out of Fort Lewis.