Air Force Special Operations Command has released the identities of two airmen who died during a military freefall training exercise on Monday. The special tactics airmen were from an elite Air Force unit and were participating in a routine exercise at Eglin Air Force Base on Florida’s panhandle.
32-year-old Tech. Sgt. Timothy Officer Jr. and 35-year-old Tech. Sgt. Marty Bettelyoun, had each served in combat roles for more than 14 years, and died as members of the most decorated unit of the Air Force, according to NBC News. Tragically, an accident on home soil took the lives of these two heroes who, by all accounts, were great men and beloved members of their community.
Air Force officials have not identified the cause of the accident or explained the circumstances of the skydiving disaster, according to several media reports. The officials said no more information will be released until they complete an accident investigation.
Sgt. Officer was a Tactical Air Control Party Airman assigned to the 720th Operations Support Squadron. He was deployed multiple times, in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom where he earned two “Bronze Star Medals (one with Valor) for his bravery against armed enemies of the United States,” according to Navarre Press.
Sgt. Bettelyoun, a husband and father of five, was a Combat Controller assigned to the 720th OSS. The 15-year combat veteran had multiple deployments to several combat zones and sensitive areas around the world, the article said.
According to a release from the Air Force Special Tactics, 24th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs Office, these airmen are the Air Force’s ground special operations forces, and often embed with U.S. Navy SEALs and U.S. Army Special Forces. “The Special Tactics airmen train to land safely in a planned drop zone and conduct their mission, whether it be personnel recovery, airfield reconnaissance and establishment or special operations air integration,” the release stated.
Col. Wolfe Davidson, the 24th Special Operations Wing commander, said in a statement that these two men were the “epitome of a Special Tactics Airman: professional, dedicated and prepared to give their lives in service to their country.”
“Our community has taken a huge loss with their deaths, and they will be sorely missed. They were respected by their peers for not only their ability on the battlefield, but also for their incredible commitment to friends and family,” Davidson said.