Ds Scholarship

Scholarship change for survivors of Idaho soldiers advances

Legislation prompted by the deaths of three Idaho Army National Guard pilots killed in a helicopter crash during a training exercise last year headed to the full House on Friday.

The House Education Committee voted to approve the measure that would change the law to make the spouses and children killed of Idaho military personnel or public safety officers during training eligible for college scholarships.

Idaho’s Armed Forces and Public Safety Officer Dependent Scholarship is currently only available to survivors of those imprisoned, missing, killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty.

Democratic Rep. Chris Mathias’ bill would change that so the spouses and eight children of the guardsmen killed in the February 2021 Black Hawk crash near Boise would be eligible.

“Just over a year ago, we lost three soldiers during a routine Black Hawk training exercise,” said Mathias, a US Coast Guard veteran. “I was told that as the law was currently written, they would not be eligible” for the scholarship.

The Idaho law was initially written during the Vietnam War era.

“It would make sense that combat and passing in combat was at the top of everyone’s mind,” Mathias said. “But we omitted those who might fall in training exercises.”

No one spoke against the bill.

The Idaho National Guard said fog and precipitation caused the helicopter crew to lose visual sight of the ground and surrounding mountainous terrain. Officials said the crew had completed the training mission and was on its way back to the Gowen Field Air National Guard Base at the Boise Airport when the crash happened south of Lucky Peak.

The scholarship recipients get free tuition and on-campus living including housing and food at Idaho public colleges and universities plus $500 per semester for books, according to the Idaho State Board of Education.

The state board has previously said that 27 students received the scholarships over the last six years at a cost of just under $1 million. Each scholarship is good for up to eight semesters of study, enough to earn a four-year degree.

Killed in the Black Hawk helicopter crash were 43-year-old Jesse Anderson, 39-year-old George Geoffrey “Geoff” Laubhan and 40-year-old Matthew Peltzer. All three lived in southwestern Idaho.

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