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Stonesifer found adventure with Rangers

(CNN) -- Pfc. Kristofor Stonesifer loved to court adventure -- even in places where it was hard to find, said friend J.C. Schneider.

As a member of the ROTC at the University of Montana in Missoula, Stonesifer would round up fellow cadets and lead them to the rooftops of the town's buildings, said Schneider, who was in the ROTC with his friend and is now a graduate student at the university.

Stonesifer and his makeshift troops would survey the action below, jumping from rooftop to rooftop, trying not to get caught spying.

"He wanted to play," Schneider told the Missoulian newspaper. "He was a warrior -- no question. But he was kind and gentle, too -- a thinker. He was just an energy and inspiration."

Stonesifer, 28, and fellow Army Ranger Spc. Jonn J. Edmunds, 20, were killed in the crash of a Blackhawk helicopter on Friday in Pakistan.

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Pentagon officials said the crash was caused by poor visibility, although it is still being investigated.

Stonesifer and Edmunds were the first American servicemen to die in the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism.

"They and all who are participating in Operation Enduring Freedom are heroes," said Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "As the president has said, they did not die in vain."

Stonesifer's immediate family declined comment, but Dr. Roberta Diamond, his father Ric's fiancee, and others offered a portrait of his life.

Stonesifer grew up in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where he attended Central Bucks West High School, Diamond told The Intelligencer newspaper in Doylestown.

Although two generations of his family served in the military before him, Stonesifer was far from being a crew-cut Ranger during his teens.

He was remembered as a skateboarder who wore his hair long. He liked to play Dungeons & Dragons.

He studied briefly at the University of Delaware and attended a survival school in Asbury, New Jersey. Then, several years ago Stonesifer set off for Montana with his high school sweetheart and his best friend.

In August 1999 he enrolled in the University of Montana's ROTC program.

"He wanted purpose in his life -- order and purpose," Diamond said. "He was an adventurer."

Stonesifer apparently found his calling in ROTC. Lt. Col. Jim Clegg, his ROTC leader and a professor of military science at the university, said Stonesifer was highly motivated.

"He was a very mature and focused young man, one of my top two cadets in a very challenging year," Clegg told The Associated Press.

But Stonesifer wanted more, Clegg said. In May 2000 he dropped out of college and enlisted in the Army. He volunteered for the Rangers and trained with the 75th Ranger Regiment's 3rd Battalion, stationed in Fort Benning, outside Columbus, Georgia.

The Rangers are "our most lethal asset that we have in the Army," said Clegg.

Often the first to respond to military crisis in any region, Rangers are trained to infiltrate behind enemy lines, gain intelligence, rescue people, conduct raids and engage in conventional warfare.

Not long after the September 11 attacks, Stonesifer must have found real adventure. He was part of a Ranger outfit assigned to the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism in Afghanistan.

Clegg said he bets Stonesifer was considered one of the best Rangers, which is why he was included on such a dangerous mission.

"Kris died doing something he wanted to be doing," Clegg told the Missoulian. "He was fighting for his country -- and he wanted to do no more than that. That's why we're all so proud of him."


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