Local soldier killed in helicopter crash

Eleven years ago, Paul Jackson was trying to find his place in the world.
An outgoing guy with an adventurous spirit, he took a chance on the Army, and ended up as a helicopter air-crew member with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment in Fort Campbell, Ky.
It proved to be a perfect match.
Jackson’s relatives said he thrived in his newfound career with the Army, rising to the rank of staff sergeant. He was deployed 10 times to war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Along the way, the former Mount Airy resident and alum of Walter B. Saul High School also married and had a daughter.
Jackson’s full and promising life came to a tragic end Tuesday, when he and three other soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash near Leadville, Colo.
Walter Sokalski, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, said Jackson, 33, was on an MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter that was “conducting routine mountain training” near Mount Massive.
Jackson and the other soldiers — Staff Sgt. Chad Tucker, Chief Warrant Officer Robert Johnson and Chief Warrant Officer Terrance Geer — might have been preparing for flying conditions they could encounter in an overseas mission, Sokalski said.
The helicopter crashed about 4 p.m. local time. Army officials recovered the helicopter’s flight data recorder, but are still unsure what caused the crash, Sokalski said.
Jackson’s death stunned his family, which has endured a string of recent heartaches, said Rudolph Tolbert, the father of Jackson’s older brother, Mpozi Tolbert.
Mpozi Tolbert, an Indianapolis Star photographer, died three years ago. Earlier this year, Jackson’s father, Melvin Jackson, also died.
“We’re devastated. We lost another good man,” Tolbert said.
Jackson often visited his old Mount Airy neighborhood, where his mother, Maisha Brenda Jackson, still lives, Tolbert noted.
Jackson’s wife, Loni, and daughter, Desiree, 8, lived with Jackson near Fort Campbell.
“He was a very cordial guy who loved his family,” Tolbert said of Jackson.
Jackson, who thought college would move too slowly for him, loved flying, Tolbert said.
“He used to say, ‘It really helps you focus when you have to take apart a helicopter, put it in a transport, then put it back together and fly it. It keeps your mind pretty tight,’” Tolbert said.
Army officials said Jackson served nine deployments in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.
He collected numerous commendations, including the Air Medal for valor, three Air Medals and two Army Commendation Medals.