Hurlburt Field’s 1st Special Operations Wing announced the loss of four airmen on Feb. 20. The men were killed on Feb. 18 when their U-28A was involved in an accident near Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, located in the Horn of Africa.
Capt. Ryan P. Hall from the 319th Special Operations Squadron, Capt Nicholas S. Whitlock and 1st Lt Justin J. Wilkens from the 34th Special Operations Squadron and Senior Airman Julian S. Scholten from the 25th Intelligence Squadron died while on board the aircraft, which was flying in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Speaking at a press conference on Feb. 20, Colonel Jim Slife, commander of the 1 Special Operations Wing, spoke about the men, their mission, and what the loss means to the local community.
“Of course our whole community is grief stricken by this. One of the things that’s unique about this special operations command and our flying units is we have composite wings,” said Slife. Composite wings are made up of many different types of aircrafts with individual missions.
“All of those things knit together very closely on a day to day basis,” said Slife. “These units all have a very close relationship both downrange but also here at Hurlburt. They train together locally, so unlike many places where the units tend to be fairly isolated, the units here tend to be very knitted together.”
“What you find,” Slife continued, “is the human stories here. Some of these folks had roommates that were in another squadron and what we have found is that there are connections all across the wing and we’re all grieving together for these four men.”
Fore more information, see the Feb. 23 issue of Navarre Press or subscribe online.