Staff Sgt. Alan L. Rogers of Kearns, a crew member of an attack Apache helicopter unit, died Thursday of noncombat injuries in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said Friday.
    Rogers, 49, is the first Utahn to die in Afghanistan, and the first Utah National Guard soldier to die in an overseas war zone since the Berlin Crisis in 1962. Twelve GIs with ties to the state have been killed in Iraq.
    He had served in the Guard for the past 20 years and was a refueler with the 211th Aviation Battalion.
    "Al was a good husband and father," said the family in a statement. "He loved the military, his country and his family. This was his second deployment. He volunteered for the first deployment to Kuwait. Please respect him and let us grieve in privacy."
    Master Sgt. Mike Mellenthin said Rogers was devoted to his wife, Pat, stepdaughter and stepson. Another stepson died of cancer a few years ago.
    "He always referred to them as his children," said Mellenthin. "He'd complain sometimes that they didn't need money but then he'd turn around and buy them things. And he doted on his grandchildren. His family was everything to him."
    Maj. Gen. Tarbet said of Rogers' family: "On their behalf, we'll bear the full weight of this organization to be there for them. His is an enormous loss for the Utah National Guard."
    "We're a family," the Utah adjutant general added, "and we've just lost a family member."
    Col. Greggory Cluff, 211th Aviation Group commander, said Rogers was a reliable, dedicated worker "who will be greatly missed. It's unfortunate that we've lost him."
    Pilot Kerry Stauffer phoned his wife from Afghanistan to say the unit is in shock. The soldiers "are extremely sad that someone so well liked and respected would be lost," she said.
    "We are all trying to deal with this the best we can," said Jamie Robinson, wife of the unit's commander in Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Rodney Robinson.
    The Pentagon on Friday offered no details other than that Rogers died in the Afghan city of Bagram "of noncombat related injuries." A report is not expected for at least two weeks. Cluff said he has no information, other than the death was unrelated to Rogers' refueling job.
    The 500 soldiers in the 211th Aviation Battalion were deployed in January and sent to Afghanistan in April. During the past six months they have performed more flight missions in protecting convoys and supporting troops than the Apache group they replaced during the previous unit's nine-month tour of duty.
    "The terrorist attacks are stepping up because of the coming elections," said Cluff of the presidential election slated for Oct. 9. "The situation has changed."
    Rogers is the third Utah Guard soldier to die in the line of duty since the terrorist attacks on the United States. Last year, Sgt. Ryan Stark and Pvt. Ammon Neilson died in separate accidents after the 145th Field Artillery Battalion was activated to beef up security at the Deseret Chemical Depot in Tooele County.