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)