WASHINGTON – A former Baltimore County resident and graduate of Dulaney High School, Chief Warrant Officer John A. Quinlan, 36, was one of eight soldiers killed in a Feb. 18 helicopter crash in southeastern Afghanistan.
“He believed in his mission and stood up for what he knew was right,” his family said in a statement. “John died doing what he loved.”
A neighbor of Quinlan recalled how the pilot liked to fly his MH-47 Chinook helicopter over his Clarksville, Tenn., home, on his way to and from Fort Campbell, Ky., hoping to catch a glimpse of his three daughters playing in their backyard, and in turn hoping they would be able to see their father at work.
“It was great to see him with his daughters,” the neighbor, Jan Williams, said, “they all got special treatment.”
Whether it was building a fence or kitchen cabinets, Quinlan was always there if he was needed, Williams said. “He was larger than life, unaware that there was anything he couldn’t do.”
Quinlan was piloting a MH-47E Chinook helicopter, carrying 22 people, when it had an unexplained loss of power and crashed, killing eight and injuring the 14 other passengers, a U.S. Army Special Operations Command release said.
“It is unclear at this time exactly as to what caused the aircraft to crash onto a high plain in southeastern Afghanistan.” 160th Commander Col. Kevin Mangum said in a statement.
Born on Feb. 26, 1970 in Morristown N.J., Quinlan was preparing to celebrate his 37th birthday.
Quinlan attended Immaculate Conception School in Towson before enrolling at Calvert Hall College, where he spent one year before transferring to Dulaney High School in Timonium.
He graduated from Dulaney in 1988 and joined the Marines shortly thereafter.
“He was a typical teenager, a bit of a class clown,” said childhood friend Brian Edwards of Baltimore. “The Marines kind of came out of left field…but when he wanted to do something, he did it right.”
Quinlan spent eight years in the Marines before joining the Army, specifically so he could fly helicopters. In total, he served his country for 18 years, said the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
For the last four years, he was stationed at Fort Campbell, in the 2nd Battalion of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. Nicknamed the “Night Stalkers,” most of the regiment’s operations take place at night.
Quinlan’s service included deployments to Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Quinlan was a well-decorated officer, earning among others, the Air Medal for Valor, Meritorious Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the Kuwait Liberation Medal, according to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
He is survived by his wife Julie, daughters Keely, 10, Madeline, 8, and Erin, 3, parents Robert and Kate Quinlan of Bradley Beach, N.J., and sister Susan Ripke of Seymour, Conn. Funeral arrangements are pending.