Missing special tactics airman identified

UPDATE Nov. 11, 9 a.m.: As the search transitioned to a recovery effort over the weekend, the identify of a missing special tactics airman lost over the Gulf of Mexico during training last week was released by the 24th Special Operations Wing Saturday.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Cole Condiff

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Cole Condiff, 29, was a Special Tactics combat controller with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, 24th Special Operations Wing, Air Force Special Operations Command. He was a Dallas, Texas native, husband and father of two daughters.

“Cole was a man with deep-rooted beliefs who dedicated himself to God, our freedoms, peace and his family. He was a devoted family man within our squadron, focused on teaching his girls to be adventurous like he was,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Steven Cooper, commander of the 23rd STS. “This is a tragic loss to the squadron, the Special Tactics community and our nation. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and teammates at this time.”

Condiff enlisted in 2012 and immediately entered the two-year combat control training program. Upon completion of the pipeline, he was assigned to the 23rd STS at Hurlburt Field, Florida.

Condiff was a static-line jumpmaster, military free-fall jumper, combat scuba diver, air traffic controller, and a joint terminal attack controller. As a Special Tactics combat controller, Condiff was specially trained and equipped for immediate deployment into combat operations to conduct reconnaissance, global access, precision strike and personnel recovery operations. Condiff completed deployments to Africa and Afghanistan in support of national security objectives.  His awards and decorations include an Air Force Achievement Medal and an Air Force Commendation Medal with a combat device.

According to 24SOW, Condiff was aboard a C-130 over the Gulf of Mexico midday Nov. 5 as part of a planned static-line jump training when he had an “unplanned parachute departure” from the aircraft south of Hurlburt Field. A multi-agency search effort was launched over a 700 square mile area between Fort Walton Beach and Pensacola Beach, involving federal, state and local agencies.

As of Friday, the U.S. Coast Guard discontinued their search effort. The search transitioned to a recovery effort, and the U.S. Air Force has taken lead role according to a press release.

“…We will continue our recovery effort as long as circumstances and resources allow to bring our Airman home,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Matt Allen, commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing.

Condiff’s family issued a statement following the announcement. Condiff loved his family and was a devoted husband, father, son, brother and friend it reads.

“Cole loved his country and was honored to serve to protect the freedoms we enjoy. Cole had a deep faith in God. Although we mourn, it is through our faith that we take comfort in knowing we will be with him again,” the statement reads.

The family also expressed gratitude to those involved in the search as well as the community outpouring of support.

“We ask for continued prayers as his wife and daughters move forward without their beloved husband and daddy,” the statement reads. “Please pray for all of our military men, women and families.”

Condiff is survived by his wife and their two daughters as well as by his parents, sister and two brothers.  The 24th SOW would like to emphasize the family’s request for privacy.

Recovery efforts by a combined U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy team are ongoing. The Air Force is actively investigating the incident. To preserve the integrity of the investigation, no additional details will be released until further notice according to a press release.

 

UPDATE Nov. 8, 9:30 a.m.: As a stormy evening gave way to a windy day Friday morning, the search continued for a missing special tactics airman lost over the Gulf of Mexico earlier this week.

According to press releases from Hurlburt Field 24SOW, the unidentified airman departed a C-130 midday Tuesday, making an unintentional water landing in the gulf. The airman had been participating in a static-line jump training event.

In response to an email Thursday evening, 24SOW public affairs senior airman Rachel Williams wrote the number of aircraft in the air has been fluctuating throughout the search as additional agencies joined the joint search effort by federal, Department of Defense, state and local agencies.

“We are incredibly thankful for our joint, state and local partners who have all been exceptionally helpful in the search for our airman,” she wrote.

Searchers faced thunderstorm conditions over night and were greeted by 10-20 mph winds this morning, causing choppy surf.

“Rescue teams are currently searching a 700 square mile area off the coast between Fort Walton Beach and Pensacola,” Williams wrote. “We continue to assess the situation and will search for our missing airman as long as the circumstances and resources allow.”

This remains an open investigation.

 

UPDATE Nov. 7, 12:33 p.m.: Military personnel on ATVs swept the sandy shore while search boats trolled the shoreline of Navarre Beach Thursday morning as the search continues for a missing special tactics airman.

Search teams patrolled Navarre Beach Thursday.

According to a Wednesday press release from Hurlburt Field 24SOW, the airman departed a C-130 aircraft making an unintentional water landing in the Gulf of Mexico at approximately 11 a.m. Nov. 5. The airman was part of a planned static-line jump training event.

Several federal, state and local agencies were cooperating to search a roughly 700 square-mile area off the coast between Fort Walton and Pensacola. Navarre Beach firefighters scanned the shore with binoculars. Military planes and Coast Guard search teams scoured the water.

Robert Hammon searches the water for a missing airman from atop the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier.

Army veteran Robert Hammon joined the search from atop the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier with his own binoculars.

“Why aren’t there more people looking? Where’s the out pouring in the community?” he said, scanning the choppy surf.

Local Air Force veteran Gene Hill was also on the pier during the search. Many members of his family are veterans or active duty. Hill was less than optimistic, pointing to concerns of hypothermia from extended exposure.

“It’s hard for me to explain how this could happen. It is a sad, sad thing,” he said. “I don’t hold much hope.”

The search continues as stormy conditions are reaching the area.

The incident remains under investigation. Updates will be provided as additional information becomes available.

 

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. – UPDATE as of 12:30 p.m., Nov. 6 — A Special Tactics Airman departed a C-130 aircraft making an unintentional water landing at approximately 11 a.m., November 5, 2019, over the Gulf of Mexico, south of Hurlburt Field, during a planned static-line jump as part of a training event.

Emergency response was immediately initiated and multiple units were dispatched to search for the airman. Rescue teams are currently searching a 700 square-mile area off the coast between Fort Walton Beach and Pensacola. The search area continues to expand and adjust as efforts continue.

The incident is currently under investigation.

This is a combined effort across federal, Department of Defense, state and local agencies. Units currently participating in the efforts include:

– 24th Special Operations Wing, Hurlburt Field Air Force Base

– 1st Special Operations Wing, Hurlburt Field Air Force Base

– Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans MH-65 Dolphin Helicopter aircrew

– Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircrew

– Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile MH-60 Jayhawk aircrew

– Two Coast Guard Station Destin 45-foot Response Boat-Medium boat crews

– 96th Test Wing, Eglin Air Force Base

– U.S. Army 7th Special Forces Group, Duke Field

– U.S. Army 6th Ranger Training Battalion, Eglin Air Force Base

– Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office

– Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

More details will continue to be released as they become available.

 

As of 6 a.m. Wednesday, a search remains underway for an airman who exited a C-130 aircraft Nov. 5 over the Gulf of Mexico approximately 4 miles south of Hurlburt Field. The incident is ongoing and under investigation.

Search and recovery crews were immediately called to aid in locating the airman from the 24th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field at approximately 11:30 a.m. Tuesday. The airman has not been identified at this time.

Reports indicate the airman’s parachute did deploy, but the crew lost sight of him after he hit the water.

Units participating in the efforts include:

– 24th Special Operations Wing, Hurlburt Field Air Force Base

– 1st Special Operations Wing, Hurlburt Field Air Force Base

– Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans MH-65 Dolphin Helicopter aircrew

– Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircrew

– Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile MH-60 Jayhawk aircrew

– Two Coast Guard Station Destin 45-foot Response Boat-Medium boat crews

– 96th Test Wing, Eglin Air Force Base

– U.S. Army 7th Special Forces Group, Duke Field

– Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office

– Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

More detail will be shared as additional information becomes available.

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