Two Fort Drum soldiers killed in Afghanistan

1st Lt. Robert J. Hess

Two Fort Drum soldiers were killed in Afghanistan Tuesday.

The Defense Department announced the deaths Friday of 32-year-old Capt. Aaron Blanchard of Selah and 26-year-old 1st Lt. Robert J. Hess of Fairfax, Va. They died of enemy indirect fire. They were assigned to the 2nd Aviation Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.

Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered flags to be flown at half staff on Tuesday, April 30 on all state office buildings in honor of the fallen soldiers.

"I join with all New Yorkers in mourning the loss of Captain Blanchard and Lieutenant Hess, and I send my deepest sympathies to their family, friends, and fellow soldiers," Governor Cuomo said. "We will honor the service of these Fort Drum soldiers and we will be forever grateful for their dedication to duty and to our nation."

Laura Schactler of Selah told the Yakima Herald-Republic her son Blanchard and another soldier were killed at a forward operating base by missile fire. He had been in Afghanistan about a week before he was killed.

A 1999 graduate of Selah High School, Blanchard served two combat tours in Iraq as a Marine before becoming an Army pilot to fly an Apache Longbow. He was based at Fort Drum in New York in 2011.

He was awarded the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and many other medals.

Blanchard leaves a wife and two young children in New York state and his parents and brothers in Washington.

Hess piloted Blackhawk helicopters. He was commissioned into the Army in 2010, completed pilot training at Fort Rucker, Alabama and arrived at Fort Drum in November 2012.

Like Blanchard, Hess had been deployed with his unit to Afghanistan in April and was only there about a week before he was killed.

He was awarded the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and numerous other medals.

The Army said Hess is survived by his mother, father and brother.

(Information from the Associated Press was used in this article).

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