Families and friends are mourning the five Marines who were killed when their CH-53E Super Stallion crashed in Southern California during a training flight on Feb. 6.

All of them were members of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, known as the Flying Tigers. All were in their 20s ― and the youngest was just 21.

They are: Lance Cpl. Donovan Davis, 21, a crew chief from Olathe, Kansas; Sgt. Alec Langen, 23, a crew chief from Chandler, Arizona; Capt. Benjamin Moulton, 27, a pilot from Emmett, Idaho; Capt. Jack Casey, 26, a pilot from Dover, New Hampshire; and Capt. Miguel Nava, 28, a pilot from Traverse City, Michigan.

The Marines had been conducting a routine training flight from Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, to their home base of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, when their helicopter crashed in the mountains in San Diego County. Civil authorities located the downed helicopter on Wednesday, and the Marine Corps on Thursday confirmed the crash had killed all five Marines aboard.

Marine Corps Times reached out to emails linked to families of the fallen for comment and had not heard back by time of publication.

Langen had wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a Marine since he was 3 years old, the Arizona news station ABC 15 reported. The crew chief had gotten married in January.

Davis also had dreams of serving as a Marine since boyhood, his father told the Kansas station KCTV 5.

“He was quiet, soft-spoken, thoughtful, and kind,” Gregory Davis told the station.

Those who knew Nava in high school described him as a positive, exceptionally kind person and a standout student and athlete, the Michigan news station ABC 13 reported. He had a baby son.

Moulton’s coach on the University of Washington boxing team remembered Moulton as a natural leader, the Seattle station KIRO 7 reported.

“To know Ben was to recognize a different kind of drive,” Russell Crandall told the station. “He managed to stay incredibly positive. It was as if he, he loved to struggle.”

The New Hampshire State Beach Patrol said Casey served as a lifeguard there and “left a mark on all who met him.”

“He could fill silence with endless stories and laughter that will never be forgotten,” the patrol wrote in a Facebook post. “His passion for protecting others and dedicated service to our country sets him apart.”

Tributes also came in from governors, members of congress and President Joe Biden.

“Our service members represent the very best of our nation — and these five Marines were no exception,” Biden said in a statement Thursday. “Today, as we mourn this profound loss, we honor their selfless service and ultimate sacrifice — and reaffirm the sacred obligation we bear to all those who wear the uniform and their families.”

Some of the Marines’ family members have criticized the Marine Corps for letting the service members fly a helicopter in the unusually fierce storm that battered Southern California the day of the mishap.

Steven Langen, the father of Alec Langen, told the New York Post on Saturday, “Maybe this is the one instance to where they wake the f–k up and they say, ‘What are we doing to our service members? We’ve got to stop this.’”

Moulton’s uncle also questioned why the Marines were flying during the storm, the Post reported.

The Marine Corps is investigating the crash and hasn’t said what may have caused it.

Lt. Col. Nicholas Harvey, the Flying Tigers’ commanding officer, said in a statement Friday that the squadron’s top priority was supporting the families that lost loved ones in the crash.

“We have been confronted with a tragedy that is every service family’s worst fear,” Harvey said.

Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.

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