Four airmen stationed at Hurlburt Field died on Saturday in a crash in Djibouti, located in the horn of Africa. The airmen were all aboard a U-28A returning from a mission in support of "Operation Enduring Freedom".
In a press conference on Monday, base personnel announced this is the first fatal crash in the U-28 fleet. Capt. Ryan P. Hall, Capt. Nicholas S. Whitlock, Lt. Justin J. Wilkens and Senior Airman Julian S. Scholten were all killed Saturday during an unspecified reconnaissance operation flight. No other personnel were on board the aircraft.
The men were returning to Camp Lemonnier when their U-28 crashed for unknown reasons. The Air Force's Interim Safety Investigation Board has taken control of the crash site and is preserving the wreckage while a formal investigation is being conducted. News of the crash is hitting home hard for the Hurlburt community.
"Our motto in the Special Operations Wing Command is that we are the quiet professionals. I would say the men who died in this crash exemplified that. They probably didn't stand out for any particular habits or behaviors, but they quietly went about their work providing quality air intelligence to our forces on the ground" said Col. Jim Slife, Commander of the 1st Special Operations Wing.
All four men were age thirty or under and had been deployed several times before and considered very experienced. Hurlburt Field is planning a special memorial service. We'll bring you those details as soon as they become available.