An Afghan soldier stands guard outside of the airport where a gunman reportedly shot and killed eight NATO troops in Kabul, Afghanistan on April 27. (Musadeq Sadeq / The Associated Press)
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Eight NATO troops killed in a shooting at Kabul airport were airmen helping train the Afghan air force, the Air Force confirmed Thursday.
An Afghan pilot, reportedly distressed over his finances, shot the airmen and an American contractor Wednesday after an argument. The Pentagon has not released the names of the casualties, but the families of five of the airmen have spoken to local media. Among the casualties were:
• Maj. Phil Ambard, an Air Force Academy assistant professor.
• Maj. David Brodeur, an F-16 pilot.
• Capt. Nathan Nylander, a flight commander.
• Maj. Raymond Estelle, a 22-year veteran of the service who arrived in Afghanistan the day before the attack.
• Lt. Col. Frank Bryant, an F-16 pilot.
"The entire Air Force family is saddened by this loss and our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of these brave airmen," Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy wrote in a joint statement. "The Air Force stands ready to support the families as they recover from this tragedy. The pain the families feel is shared across the entire Air Force.
"The airmen we lost personified the Air Force's core values of integrity, service and excellence. We honor the service and dedication of these brave airmen and remain firm in our resolve to carry on our mission."
The shooting took place at 10:25 a.m. during a meeting in an operations room at the Afghan Air Corps, Afghan defense officials told The Associated Press. It was unclear what the argument was about.
"Suddenly, in the middle of the meeting, shooting started," Afghan Air Corps spokesman Col. Bahader, who uses only one name, told AP. "After the shooting started, we saw a number of Afghan army officers and soldiers running out of the building. Some were even throwing themselves out of the windows to get away."
Brodeur's father http://www.telegram.com/article/20110428/NEWS/104289402/0/NEWS02&TEMPLATE=MOBILE">told several news outlets that Brodeur, an F-16 pilot, had been deployed to Afghanistan for about three months.
Brodeur was a 1999 graduate of the Air Force Academy and the father of two children, his father told the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester, Mass.
"David was a wonderful and caring father, husband, son and brother who was committed to the service of his country," Lawrence Brodeur told the newspaper. "Words are inadequate to express how much we miss him."
Ambard was an assistant professor of French and Spanish at the Air Force Academy, the school announced in a statement.
He served in the military for about 25 years, his daughter http://www.gazette.com/articles/killed-117058-professor-attack.html">told The Gazette of Colorado Springs.
"He was a great teacher, he was a great father," 1st Lt. Emily Short said. "He was a family man through and through. His whole being was dedicated to his family."
Nylander, 35, was married and a father of three children. He joined the Air Force shortly after graduating high school, his brother http://www.pantagraph.com/news/local/article_148bde02-71d1-11e0-9106-001cc4c03286.html">told the Pantagraph of Bloomington, Ill.
Bryant flew bombing raids on Saddam Hussein and his sons during the early days of the Iraq war, a friend http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2011/apr/29/frank-bryant-jr-graduate-of-karns-dies-in-kabul/">told the Knoxville News Sentinel.
"He knew what he had to do, and he did it," Dan Dugger told the newspaper. "The first time I ever met him, he told me, ‘I want to be a wrestler, and I want to be a fighter pilot.'"
Estelle, stationed at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., had arrived in Afghanistan just the day before the attack, his sister http://www.wvec.com/news/military/Local-airman-killed-in-Kabul-airport-shooting-120923389.html">told WVEC-TV.
Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said the gunman was an officer who had served as a pilot in the Afghan military for the past 20 years. The gunman — identified as Ahmad Gul, 48, of Tarakhail district in Kabul province — died in an exchange of fire that followed his attack.
The gunman's brother insisted he was not a Taliban sympathizer.
"He was under economic pressures and recently he sold his house. He was not in a normal frame of mind because of these pressures," said the brother, Dr. Mohammad Hassan Sahibi. "He was going through a very difficult period of time in his life."
"He served his country for years," Sahibi told Tolo, a private television station in Kabul. "He loved his people and his country. He had no link with Taliban or al-Qaida."
Sahibi said his brother was wounded four or five times during his military service — once seriously when his helicopter crashed.