Thursday, 31 January 2013 08:55
HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. - Sixteen Airmen will kick-off a 450-mile march at 9 a.m., Sunday February 3, to honor five fallen Air Commandos.
The event will begin with an opening ceremony at Hurlburt Air Park where four teams of four marchers from the 319th Special Operations Squadron, the 34th SOS, the 18th Flight Test Squadron, and the 25th Intelligence Squadron will embark on a six-day relay in memory of Lt. Col. John D. Loftis, 866th Air Expeditionary Squadron; Capt. Ryan P. Hall, 319th SOS; Capt. Nicholas S. Whitlock, 34th SOS; 1st Lt. Justin J. Wilkens, 34th SOS; and Senior Airman Julian S. Scholten, 25th IS. The team's journey, beginning on the Emerald Gulf Coast, will end at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., home of the U.S. Special Operations Command Feb. 8.
Hall, 30, was a U-28A pilot on his seventh deployment. He entered the Air Force in 2004, receiving his commission through the Reserve Officer Training Corp at The Citadel. He had been assigned to the 319th SOS at Hurlburt Field since 2007 and had more than 1,300 combat flight hours.
Whitlock, 29, was also a U-28A pilot and was on his fifth deployment. He entered the Air Force in 2006, receiving his commission through the Officer Training School. He had been assigned to the 319th SOS and then to the 34th SOS at Hurlburt Field since 2008 and had more than 800 combat flight hours.
Wilkens, 26, was a combat systems officer on his third deployment. He entered the Air Force in 2009, receiving his commission through the Air Force Academy. He had been assigned to the 34th SOS at Hurlburt Field since April 2011 and had more than 400 combat hours.
Scholten, 26, was a mission systems operator assigned to the 25th IS at Hurlburt Field since 2009. He enlisted in the Air Force in 2007. He had more than 600 combat hours in six different airframes and was on his third deployment.
Lt. Col. John Darin Loftis, 866th Air Expeditionary Squadron at Hurlburt, died of wounds suffered from a gunshot in Kabul, Afghanistan. He was deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and working in the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Ministry of the Interior with the AfPak Hands program as the chief plans advisor. Loftis, 44, was a space and missile officer who became a regional affairs strategist in 2008. He was previously awarded the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal and Army Achievement Medal.