Marines remember “Simple Jack,” a combat jet pilot killed during crash

Lt. Col. Andrew Mettler's nickname "Simple Jack" is a fictional character with intellectual disabilities within the comedy film "Tropic Thunder." Source: Marine Corps/DreamWorks Pictures

A Marine who piloted combat jets was remembered Friday in Beaufort as a hard worker who cared about people and his fellow Marines and possessed a “warrior’s spirit.”

Lt. Col. Andrew Mettler was an F/A-18 Hornet pilot based at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. He died in an F/A-18D Hornet crash during a training flight near Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif. Aug. 24.

Mettler was a member of the Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224, which is part of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing based at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

His call sign was “Simple Jack,” the Marines said in a statement, and his squadron was called the Fighting Bengals.

“He cared about people. He cared about Marines. He was an incredibly hard worker, amazing pilot, and skilled leader, but his legacy is how he treated people with dignity and respect and that if you treat people like that, they will return it,” said Lt. Col. Schranz, the squadron’s commanding officer.

Final respects were paid to Mettler by the Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 during a memorial ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Friday.

Mettler, of Marietta, Ga., was commissioned in the Marine Corps Nov. 30, 2007.

What people will remember most about Mettler, Schranz added, is that “he had a servant’s heart and a warrior’s spirit, something we all should strive for in the Marine Corps across all ranks. He is absolutely the best of us.”

After the crash, Commanding General Maj. Gen. Scott Benedict of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing said Mettler was “honing his craft as a Hornet pilot and leader in his squadron.”

“I had the great honor of flying in an F/A-18D with Simple Jack and will always remember his skill piloting the Hornet and his wry smile,” Benedict said.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

Mettler’s decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with gold star in lieu of second award, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with gold star in lieu of second award, Navy Unit Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korea Defense Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with four bronze stars in lieu of 5th award.

The fatal crash was the third incident in the last six weeks involving Marine aviators that were classified as a “Class A” mishap, entailing damages totaling at least $2.5 million or complete destruction of a Department of Defense aircraft.

On Monday, the Marines found a debris field from a missing $135 million F-35B Lightning II fighter jet in rural Williamsburg County, about two hours northeast of Joint Base Charleston. That ended the mysterious search for the missing aircraft that began when an unnamed pilot from Beaufort’s Marine Corps Air Station was forced to eject from the warplane during an unexplained “mishap” last Sunday afternoon.

Also in August, three Marines were killed and another was critically injured when a V-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft crashed with 23 people aboard during a training drill in Australia.

In July, the Marines released the cause of F/A-18D Hornet that crashed in March 2022 near Beaufort, saying birds struck plane’s engines. The fighter jet was based out of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and the crash occurred on land owned by former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. Two pilots ejected safely by pulling an ejection handle that launched one cockpit followed by the other.


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