|From The Denver Post denverpost.com
Hickenlooper, Guard recall strength of pilot killed in Afghan crash
By Liz Navratil
The Denver Post
Posted: 08/10/2011 01:00:00 AM MDT
Updated: 08/10/2011 02:52:24 AM MDT
At a farewell event before David R. Carter's last deployment, Gov. John Hickenlooper stood for a photo alongside the departing National Guard helicopter pilot.
Though the Aurora man was one of many thousands of Coloradans whom Hickenlooper met in his first months in office, the governor immediately remembered Carter on Tuesday when the photo of the moment was posted on Facebook.
"He was very charismatic and clearly a natural leader," the governor said through a spokesman.
At a somber National Guard post Tuesday, Carter, who was killed Saturday in Afghanistan when his CH-47 helicopter was shot down, was remembered as a gifted pilot, a patient teacher and a man of "quiet strength."
"Everybody's still processing it," Col. Chris Petty said at Aurora's Lookout Park. "There were some swollen eyes at work today."
Carter, 47, had logged more than 4,000 flight hours, including 700 in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan before he was chosen to fly the mission carrying Navy SEAL Team Six operatives and other troops to rescue others from a firefight. The sailors were from the same elite unit that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May. U.S. officials said none of the men involved in the raid were aboard the helicopter Saturday.
The crash, which killed 30 Americans and eight Afghans, marked the single deadliest incident for U.S. forces since they invaded Afghanistan almost 10 years ago.
Guard leaders weren't surprised Carter was chosen. Petty said Carter was "one of the top-trained Army pilots in Colorado" and could fly Cobra, Huey and CH-47 helicopters.
"Nobody felt any timidity getting in the back of his aircraft," Petty said.
Carter had been a part of the National Guard for at least 10 years and worked as a flight instructor when not overseas.
He left Colorado for Fort Hood, Texas, in May and had probably been in Afghanistan for 10 to 14 days before he died "doing something he believed in,"
Carter served in Iraq in 2006 and 2007.
"He seemed like the kind of guy that could have been a Marine," said Garen Forsythe, who attended youth groups with Carter and graduated from Hays High School in Hays, Kan., with him in 1982. "He was a guy's guy. He had that quiet strength."
Carter, who played football for a time, went on to attend Fort Hays State University. He received his bachelor of science degree in the spring of 1987, school representatives said.
Hickenlooper noted Carter protected "the freedoms we sometimes take for granted."
Funeral arrangement for Carter had not yet been made Tuesday. Remains of the 30 service members arrived Tuesday at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where medical examiners planned to confirm their identities.
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to a college fund for Carter's children, Kyle and Kaitlen. Donations marked "Dave Carter Memorial Fund" can be dropped off at any FirstBank.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.