Operation Iraqi Freedom, Fallen Heroes, Iraq War 03/19/03

Justin J Wilkens

Bend, Oregon

February 18, 2012

Age Military Rank Unit/Location
26 Air Force 1st Lt

34th Special Operations Squadron

Hurlburt Field, Florida

 Died when their U-28 aircraft was involved in an accident near Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Africa.  The cause of the accident is under investigation.

From Springfield News-Sun springfieldnewssun.com 02/20/12:

4 Air Force airmen killed in Africa crash
By John Nolan, Staff Writer Updated 6:45 PM Monday, February 20, 2012

The Department of Defense on Monday identified four airmen killed when their U-28 spy plane crashed on Saturday in the eastern African country of Djibouti.

The intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance plane flies in support of special forces operations.

“Initial indications are it wasn’t shot down,” said Staff Sgt. Ryan Whitney of the public affairs office at Hurlburt Field, Fla., headquarters of Air Force Special Operations Command.

Whitney said he had no details about the crew’s specific assignment or the circumstances at the time of the single-engine plane’s crash. The Air Force is investigating to determine the cause.

The Defense Department said the crew was flying in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the government’s name for the war in Afghanistan and related military operations. The U.S. military maintains operations in the troubled east Africa region.

Those killed were Capt. Ryan P. Hall, 30, of Colorado Springs, Colo.; Capt. Nicholas S. Whitlock, 29, of Newnan, Ga.; 1st Lt. Justin J. Wilkens, 26, of Bend, Ore., and Senior Airman Julian S. Scholten, 26, of Upper Marlboro, Md. All were assigned to Hurlburt Field.

The crash occurred at about 8 p.m. local time Saturday, six miles from the Djibouti International Airport, U.S. military officials said. They described it as a routine flight.

On Dec. 13, an Air Force unmanned aircraft — an MQ-9 Reaper — crashed at an international airport in the Republic of Seychelles, an island nation off the east coast of Africa. The Reaper was unarmed and no injuries were reported.

The Reaper program is managed by the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The Air Force said it was investigating the cause of that crash.
From Daytona Daily News daytonedailynews.com 02/20/12:

4 Air Force airmen killed in Africa crash
By John Nolan, Staff Writer Updated 6:45 PM Monday, February 20, 2012

The Department of Defense on Monday identified four airmen killed when their U-28 spy plane crashed on Saturday in the eastern African country of Djibouti.

The intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance plane flies in support of special forces operations.

“Initial indications are it wasn’t shot down,” said Staff Sgt. Ryan Whitney of the public affairs office at Hurlburt Field, Fla., headquarters of Air Force Special Operations Command.

Whitney said he had no details about the crew’s specific assignment or the circumstances at the time of the single-engine plane’s crash. The Air Force is investigating to determine the cause.

The Defense Department said the crew was flying in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the government’s name for the war in Afghanistan and related military operations. The U.S. military maintains operations in the troubled east Africa region.

Those killed were Capt. Ryan P. Hall, 30, of Colorado Springs, Colo.; Capt. Nicholas S. Whitlock, 29, of Newnan, Ga.; 1st Lt. Justin J. Wilkens, 26, of Bend, Ore., and Senior Airman Julian S. Scholten, 26, of Upper Marlboro, Md. All were assigned to Hurlburt Field.

The crash occurred at about 8 p.m. local time Saturday, six miles from the Djibouti International Airport, U.S. military officials said. They described it as a routine flight.

On Dec. 13, an Air Force unmanned aircraft — an MQ-9 Reaper — crashed at an international airport in the Republic of Seychelles, an island nation off the east coast of Africa. The Reaper was unarmed and no injuries were reported.

The Reaper program is managed by the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The Air Force said it was investigating the cause of that crash.

From The Oregonian oregonlive.com 02/20/12:

Bend airman killed in Africa plane crash loved to fly, friend says
Published: Monday, February 20, 2012, 3:46 PM Updated: Monday, February 20, 2012, 7:04 PM
Stuart Tomlinson, The Oregonian
A U.S. Air Force lieutenant who grew up in Bend was one of four airmen killed when a reconnaissance plane crashed 6 miles from the only U.S. base in Africa Saturday.

The four killed in the crash included: 1st Lt. Justin J. Wilkens, 26, of Bend, with the 34th Special Operations Squadron; Capt. Ryan P. Hall, 30, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, with the 319th Special Operations Squadron; Capt. Nicholas S. Whitlock, 29, of Newnan, Georgia, with the 34th Special Operations Squadron; and Senior Airman Julian S. Scholten, 26, of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, with the 25th Intelligence Squadron.

Officials at Hurlburt Field in Florida where the crew was assigned prior to deployment, said Wilkens, 26, was a combat systems officer on his third deployment.

Kalon Pluma, who met Wilkens in the Civil Air Patrol where Wilkens was the youth commanding officer, said Wilkens’ parents, Dr. Jim and Sharon Wilkens, flew to the Dover Air Force Base Monday for the arrival of his body from overseas.
“He was an extraordinary guy who lived life to the fullest,’’ Pluma said. “I believe he had his pilot’s license before he had a drivers license. It was his life.”

Pluma said Wilkens was home-schooled, and was “extremely outgoing and friendly, inquisitive, talented and brave.”

“He was strong minded, strong bodied and could fix almost anything in a pinch,” Pluma said.

Wilkens is survived by both sets of grandparents, his parents, older sister Brittany, younger sister Cameron and younger brother Jason, Pluma said

Wilkens received his commission from the U.S. Air Force Academy after enlisting in the Air Force in 2009, and had been assigned to the 34th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field since April 2011; he had more than 400 combat hours of flight time.

Officials said the crash occurred at about 8 p.m. Saturday in Djibouti. U.S. personnel from Camp Lemonnier in the tiny Horn of Africa nation responded to the scene, which is just miles from the Djibouti/Somalia border.
Specialist Ryan Whitney of the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field said it appears the plane did not crash because of hostile fire while conducting an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission. Officials with the U.S. Africa Command called it a "routine" flight.

"The Hurlburt Field community expresses our deepest condolences to the family of the crew, and we share in their sorrow. Our efforts are focused on helping them through this difficult time," said Col. Jim Slife, commander of the 1st Special Operations Wing. "We will never forget the valuable contributions these brave men made to their country and community."

The U-28A is a single engine, fixed wing aircraft with the ability to operate from short and unimproved runway surfaces, and also certified to land on dirt and grass airstrips.

The cause of the crash is under investigation, Air Force officials said.

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