Robert Earl Brannum (Jan. 17, 1957 - Aug. 26, 1983) was born in Knoxville, Tennessee to David and Betty Brannum. Bobby was raised in South Knoxville and attended Mt. Olive Elementary School where he was on the Safety Patrol and played on the basketball team. Bobby continued his education at Doyle High School where he was active in Boy’s State, voted class President and Mr. Doyle High by his classmates. He and close friend Jim Buchanan were co-captains of the Boys’ Basketball team. During his senior year in 1975, Bobby was awarded an Army ROTC scholarship to the University of Tennessee.
During his studies at the University of Tennessee Bobby was inducted into the Scabbard and Blade, a military science honor society for upperclassman. He graduated the University of Tennessee in August 1979 with honors and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. Lieutenant Brannum was first assigned to the Transportation Corps and reported to Fort Eustis, Virginia. He was later assigned to Fort Rucker, Alabama for flight school and his last assignment was at Fort Campbell, Kentucky where he flew Blackhawk helicopters.
Bobby married his high school sweetheart, Beverly Whaley during their junior year at the University of Tennessee. They had two children a son, Blake and a daughter Bethany.
On August 1, 1983 he was raised to the rank of Captain and was a Maintenance Pilot for a fleet of 15 Blackhawk helicopters assigned to the 158th Aviation Battalion. He was in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), aka the Night Stalkers, attached to the 101st Airborne Infantry. The 160th Night Stalkers is a special operations force of the United States Army that provides helicopter aviation support for general purpose and special operations forces. The majority of their missions are at night and aided with the use of night vision goggles. Captain Brannum had just graduated a special air assault school and was awarded a medal for his participation and graduation.
On August 26, 1983, Captain Robert E. Brannum, CW2 David William Jordan and WO1 Allen Earl Jennings were testing a Sikorsky UH-60 A Blackhawk helicopter when the blade came off over Christian County, Kentucky causing the helicopter to crash killing them all immediately. The crash was due to a cotter pin which was not secured properly.
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