STUTTGART, Germany — The Defense Department on Monday identified four Florida-based U.S. airmen who died Saturday when their military aircraft crashed near Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, home to the United States' only major military base in Africa.
The crash, the cause of which is under investigation, occurred about six miles from Djibouti International Airport, according to U.S. Africa Command. All four U.S. military personnel on board the U-28 aircraft were killed, AFRICOM reported.
“U.S. military personnel were dispatched to the scene to provide immediate response assistance and secure the crash site,” an AFRICOM news release stated. A safety board investigation has been initiated to determine the exact cause of the incident, the command said.
The airmen were part of a special operations team drawn from units based in Hurlburt Field, Fla.
The Defense Department identified those killed as:
- Capt. Ryan P. Hall, 30, of Colorado Springs, Colo., assigned to the 319th Special Operations Squadron.
- Capt. Nicholas S. Whitlock, 29, of Newnan, Ga., assigned to the 34th Special Operations Squadron.
- 1st Lt. Justin J. Wilkens, 26, of Bend, Ore., was assigned to the 34th Special Operations Squadron.
- Senior Airman Julian S. Scholten, 26, of Upper Marlboro, Md., assigned to the 25th Intelligence Squadron.
The airmen were traveling in an aircraft that specializes in providing support to special operations forces, according to Globlasecurity.org, a clearing house for information on military matters. The aircraft can operate from short, unimproved runway surfaces and land on dirt and grass strips, the website states.
Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti serves as home to the headquarters of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, a mission focused on bolstering security and stability in east Africa. The military camp also is strategically positioned near Somalia, where U.S. special operations forces have been known to operate in the past.