Local News

Rescue Teams Search For Two Missing Seymour Johnson Airmen

Posted April 9, 2003 4:49 a.m. EDT

— Coalition rescue teams are searching early Wednesday for two U.S. airmen from a North Carolina-based fighter jet that went down in Iraq.

Central Command says the airmen and their F-15E Strike Eagle were deployed from the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

Residents near the base say they are praying for the troops' safe return.

"We have been praying for our troops from before the war actually started, along with our church and our community. That's our main focus," Goldsboro resident Becky Smith said.

A plane from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base was shot down in the first Persian Gulf war, killing two airmen. Two other airmen were held and released as prisoners of war.

Arthur Weir went through survival training in the Army, which is similar to the kind that the pilots may have had to prepare for this possible situation.

"They drop us off in the middle of nowhere and say, 'You have to get here.' They prepare you for situations of being disabled and not on your vehicle," he said.

The Army is conducting a search and rescue mission to find the two missing airmen.

Officials say the plane went down near Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit. The town is believed to be a stronghold of Iraqi resistance. It is unclear whether the plane was shot down.

Officials say the fighter vanished Sunday, but its loss was not announced until later for security reasons.