Local News

Air Force unit returns from Afghanistan, minus two pilots

Posted September 9, 2009 2:48 p.m. EDT
Updated September 9, 2009 10:52 p.m. EDT

— 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."