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Air Force unit returns from Afghanistan, minus two pilots

Two months after two of their pilots were killed in plane crash in Afghanistan, airmen from the 336th Fighter Squadron returned Wednesday evening from a four-month deployment.

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SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. — Two months after two of their pilots were killed in plane crash in Afghanistan, airmen from the 336th Fighter Squadron returned this week from a four-month deployment.

About 150 airmen, including members of the 4th Maintenance Group, got a rousing welcome from family and friends Wednesday evening. Another 350 returned home late Tuesday.

On July 17, an F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet crashed in Ghazni Province in Afghanistan, killing Capt. Mark McDowell, 26, of Colorado Springs, and Capt. Thomas Gramith, 27, of Eagan, Minn.

"It was a bad time. I don't know what to say really,” Air Force Sgt. Joseph Cordero said.

McDowell was a Charlotte native whose grandfather lives in Sanford.

The cause of the crash hasn't been released, but military officials have said it was from non-hostile action.

"We had to have a lot of morale boosters before we left because a lot of the guys were pretty down about it," Air Force Sgt. Matthew Anderson said. "Right now, we're just glad to be home to see our families."

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 Credits

Adam Owens, Reporter
Mark Simpson, Photographer

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