1st Lt. Robert J. Hess, 26, of Fairfax, was one of two soldiers killed in action Tuesday in Logar, Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense. Capt. Aaron R. Blanchard, 32, of Selah, Wash., was also killed.
Hess, a 2005 graduate of Robinson High School, was a Blackhawk pilot, commissioned into the Army in November 2010 after attending Old Dominion University.
At Robinson, Hess swam for three years in fly and individual medley events, and garnered three state championships. He also played linebacker in football, and won a state championship with the team. He was a criminal justice major at ODU and had been named Student of the Year at Chantilly Criminal Justice Academy.
After completing pilot training at Fort Rucker, Ala., Hess arrived at Fort Drum last November and deployed with his unit to Afghanistan in Support of Operation Enduring Freedom earlier this month.
Hess’s awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the NATO Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Combat Action Badge, the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, and the Army Aviator Badge. He completed the Aviation Officer Basic Course, the Blackhawk Aviator Qualification Course, the Blackhawk M-Model Aviator Qualification Course, and the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Course.
Hess is survived by his mother and father, Robert and Lauren Hess of Fairfax, and a brother, Patrick.
Many have offered condolences to both soldiers on a Facebook page for the U.S. Army Fort Drum & 10th Mountain Division.
“My heart breaks for their families, their children especially. They are in my thoughts and prayers,” wrote one female poster on the site. “These fallen heroes have my eternal thanks for their sacrifice. It is a sobering reminder of what is on the line as we start this deployment — I pray that the rest of our Soldiers come home safely.”