Pentagon: No Enemy Involvement in Djibouti Air Force Crash

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2012 — Four Air Force spe­cial oper­a­tors were killed Feb. 18 when their sin­gle-engine U-28 air­craft crashed in Dji­bouti on the Horn of Africa, Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary George Lit­tle said today.

“This is obvi­ous­ly a trag­ic inci­dent,” Lit­tle said about the acci­dent, which occurred at the Dji­bouti-Ambouli Inter­na­tion­al Air­port in Dji­bouti City. Camp Lemon­nier, locat­ed near­by, is the main base of oper­a­tions for U.S. Africa Com­mand in the Horn of Africa.

The air­men had been con­duct­ing a sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance mis­sion, Lit­tle said. “There is absolute­ly no indi­ca­tion of any kind of ene­my involve­ment in the down­ing of the plane,” he added.

Lit­tle said the Air Force mis­sion was in sup­port of Oper­a­tion Endur­ing Free­dom, which includes oper­a­tions in Afghanistan, the Philip­pines, the Horn of Africa and else­where. The spe­cial oper­a­tors — all were from Hurl­burt Field, an Air Force instal­la­tion in Okaloosa Coun­ty, Fla. — were:

— Capt. Ryan P. Hall, 30, of Col­orado Springs, Colo., assigned to the 319th Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Squadron.

— Capt. Nicholas S. Whit­lock, 29, of New­nan, Ga., and 1st Lt. Justin J. Wilkens, 26, of Bend, Ore., both assigned to the 34th Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Squadron.

— Senior Air­man Julian S. Scholten, 26, of Upper Marl­boro, Md., assigned to the 25th Intel­li­gence Squadron.

Lit­tle said a dig­ni­fied trans­fer cer­e­mo­ny took place at the Dover Air Force Base mil­i­tary mor­tu­ary in Delaware ear­ly this morn­ing “for our return­ing fall­en heroes who were involved in this crash.”

A safe­ty board inves­ti­ga­tion has been ini­ti­at­ed to deter­mine the cause of the inci­dent, accord­ing to a state­ment on the Africa Com­mand web­site. The acci­dent occurred at about 8 p.m. local time, the state­ment said, and U.S. mil­i­tary per­son­nel were dis­patched to the scene.

“We need to under­stand pre­cise­ly what hap­pened in this trag­ic inci­dent,” Lit­tle said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)