WIU ROTC Alumnus Killed in Iraq Black Hawk Crash
MACOMB, IL – – Capt. Derek A. Dobogai, 26, a Western Illinois University alumnus, was among the 14 U.S. soldiers aboard a Black Hawk helicopter that crashed Wednesday (Aug. 22) in northern Iraq, according to the Associated Press. All 14 soldiers were killed in the crash, which the military said was likely caused by mechanical problems.
Dobogai (Fon du Lac, WI), a member of the Western Illinois University Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (ROTC), was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army on Dec. 12, 2003. He earned his Bachelor’s of Science degree in law enforcement and justice administration that same fall.
“Derek Dobogai epitomized the very best of Western students and the very best of the Army’s officer corps,” said retired Lt. Col. Michael Cumbie, who was chair of the military science department during Dobogai’s tenure. “He valued his education, excelled in his extracurricular activities and motivated those around him to achieve more in their lives. Today is a sad day for the Dobogai family and for Western.”
He had a distinguished undergraduate career at Western Illinois as a member of the ROTC Bulldog Battalion. At the May 2004 commissioning ceremony, Dobogai was name the recipient of Western’s Colonel Leo W. Manning Outstanding ROTC Cadet Award, which recognizes the year’s (2003-2004) top graduating military science department cadet, based on academics, military commissioning with assignment into a combat arms branch or military police corps, a record of high achievement in ROTC and extracurricular and community involvement.
Following his Fall 2003 commissioning, Derek completed Infantry Basic Course at Fort Benning, GA and had began U.S. Army Ranger School May 9. Derek’s mother, Lisa Dobogai, accepted the award on his behalf.
Dobogai also competed in athletics (2001-2002) at Western. He was among the top Leatherneck cross county runners and ran the steeplechase in track.
While at Western, Dobogai was ranked as the No. 14 Army ROTC cadet in the nation among more than 4,000 cadets, Cumbie said. He was a U.S. Army Ranger School graduate and a U.S. Army Airborne School graduate. He also earned the distinction as the “Lieutenant of the Year” for the 25th Infantry Division (based in Hawaii).
Dobogai served combat tours in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq.
Derek was a 1999 graduate of Winnebago Lutheran Academy (WLA) in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. A top athlete and honor student at school, he was on the track team and captain of the cross-country team. He still enjoyed running, competing in running events and triathlons as an adult. He wrote in the yearbook of his plans for the future and gave this quote: “What I have learned at WLA is that God is the one who is in charge of everything. All I need to do is trust in Him and He will lead me where I need to go.” Derek was a law enforcement and justice administration major at Western Illinois University, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2003.
He was ranked the number 14 Army ROTC Cadet in the nation out of 4,000 cadets. He received an active duty commission in 2003 as a second lieutenant in the United States Army as part of the Reserve Officers Training Corps. He then attended Military Intelligence Officer Basic Course at Fort Benning, Georgia. Upon graduating he served a tour of duty in Afghanistan. That year he was named Lietutenant of the Year for the 25th Infantry Division. He was among 14 military personnel who were killed when a U.S. Black Hawk helicopter crashed during a nighttime mission in northern Iraq.
He was currently assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, based at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and was branch detailed to the Special Forces for further assignment. He was promoted to Captain in March, 2007. Derek’s family said it was his dream to serve America, quietly. He was never one to boast, so he should be honored with quiet strength.
Derek is survived by his parents, David G. and Lisa L. (Endries) Dobogai; 2 brothers, Daniel and David; his paternal grandmother, Darlene and step-grandfather, William Acree; his girlfriend, Tracy Charles; aunts, uncles, cousins, and other relatives and friends further survive him.
He was preceded in death by his paternal grandfather and step-grandmother, and maternal grandparents.
On October 24, 2008, some of Captain Dobogai’s remains were buried with the remains of his fellow crew members at Arlington National Cemetery: Captain Dobogai
FOND DU LAC, Wis. – A soldier from Fond du Lac who was one of the top students in his high school class was among 14 U.S. troops killed when a Black Hawk helicopter crashed in northern Iraq.
Justin Gregorius, principal of Winnebago Lutheran Academy, said an announcement posted during student orientation Thursday informed faculty members that Army Capt. Derek Dobogai, 26, who graduated from the academy in 1999, was among those killed in the crash.
“The word came right at the end of orientation,” Gregorius said. “Kids were leaving class. It was just kind of filtering through.”
The Department of Defense announced the death Thursday night. Dobogai was among 10 of the soldiers who were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, out of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
Military officials said the 14 soldiers were on the helicopter when it crashed Wednesday in northern Iraq. The military said it appeared the aircraft was lost due to mechanical problems. There were no survivors.
Gregorius wasn’t at Winnebago Lutheran when Dobogai attended, but chemistry and physics teacher Riley Westphal remembered him as a good student who had two brothers who also attended the school.
“I know Derek was a fine student in chemistry,” Westphal said. “All the Dobogai boys did a real nice job in chemistry.”
The Rev. Rick Zahn, who is on the academy faculty, remembered Dobogai as a track and cross country athlete, as well as a student who was recognized as an academic letter winner for good grades in each of his four years.
As one of the top 10 students in his senior year, he told in the yearbook of his plans for college and gave this quote:
“What I have learned at WLA is that God is the one who is in charge of everything. All I need to do is trust in Him and He will lead me where I need to go.”
No listing for Dobogai’s parents, David and Lisa Dobogai, could be found when The Associated Press tried to reach them.
A person at the Dobogai residence told the Fond du Lac Reporter the family had no comment at this time.
“It is in the hands of the Lord,” Zahn said. “We will do all that we can for the family.”
There have been 78 military personnel from Wisconsin killed in the Iraq war or related duties.
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