Once again, the Air Force is in mourning.

The Defense Department has identified six airmen killed in Afghanistan just days before Christmas:

  • Maj. Adrianna M. Vorderbruggen, 36, with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, 9th Field Investigations Squadron, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
  • Staff Sgt. Michael A. Cinco, 28, with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, 11th Field Investigations Squadron, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas.
  • Staff Sgt. Peter W. Taub, 30, with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Detachment 816, Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota.
  • Staff Sgt. Chester J. McBride, 30, with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Detachment 405, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.
  • Tech Sgt. Joseph G. Lemm, 45, with the 105th Security Forces Squadron at Stewart Air National Guard Base, New York.
  • Staff Sgt. Louis M. Bonacasa, 31, with the 105th Security Forces Squadron at Stewart Air National Guard Base, New York.

"The tragic loss of six airmen casts a dark shadow over our Air Force this holiday season," Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said in a Tuesday statement. "As we collectively mourn with their families and loved ones, let us never forget their courage, bravery, and selflessness. These airmen volunteered to serve their country and by doing so, gave a full measure of devotion. On behalf of all of us, I offer my deepest condolences to their families, friends, and fellow airmen."

The deaths of the four OSI agents make Monday's attack "the deadliest day in our command's history," Brig. Gen. Keith Givens, OSI commander, said on Tuesday.

The six airmen who were killed in a Dec. 21 suicide bomb attack are, clockwise from top left: Maj. Adrianna M. Vorderbruggen, Staff Sgt. Michael A. Cinco, Staff Sgt. Chester J. McBride, Tech Sgt. Joseph G. Lemm, Staff Sgt. Peter W. Taub, and Staff Sgt. Louis M. Bonacasa.

Photo Credit: Air Force photos

"We lost four brave special agents and two patriotic security forces members on a joint patrol outside of Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, Monday, Dec. 21," Givens said in a statement. "The OSI family will undoubtedly rise to the occasion yet again and honor these great Americans, but for now, I ask for your thoughts and prayers to go out to the families and loved ones of the fallen."

The six airmen were killed on Monday when a suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden motorcycle into a joint patrol with Afghan security forces, according to the Associated Press. Two other U.S. troops and an Afghan were wounded.

Each of the fallen has a story. They include a New York City police detective who surprised his family when he returned from Afghanistan on a previous deployment, an openly gay airmen killed the day before the fifth anniversary of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell; and an OSI agent who wanted to work for his family's restaurant, whose wife is pregnant with their second child, according to media reports.

Afghanistan's ambassador to the U.S. Hamdullah Mohib said on Tuesday that he was "deeply grieved by the cowardly attack," and that he offered his condolences to the families of the airmen killed.

"We will never forget these brave men who have served so honorably and made the ultimate sacrifice for our nations' shared goal of building a stable Afghanistan and fighting the terrorists who try to destabilize our region and threaten world peace," Mohib said a statement.

The six airmen are the latest Air Force fatalities in what has been a particularly deadly year. Of the 20 U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan, 16 have been airmen.

Capt. Matthew D. Roland, 27; and Staff Sgt. Forrest B. Sibley, 31, died on Aug. 26 after being wounded by men in afghan security forces uniforms while at a vehicle checkpoint at Camp Antonik in Helmand Province. Roland was a special tactics officer with the 23rd Tactics Squadron. Sibley was a combat controller with the 21st Special Tactics Squadron.

Then on Oct. 2, a C-130J crashed at Jalalabad Airfield shortly after takeoff, killing six airmen. Capt. Jonathan J. Golden, 33; Capt. Jordan B. Pierson, 28; Staff Sgt. Ryan D. Hammond, 26; and Senior Airman Quinn L. Johnson-Harris, 21, all came from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. Senior Airman Nathan C. Sartain, 29; and Airman 1st Class Kcey E. Ruiz, 21, were stationed at Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts.

Two more airmen were killed on Oct. 11 when a British helicopter crashed at Camp Resolute Support in Kabul, Afghanistan. Maj. Phyllis J. Pelky, 45, was the aide-de-camp to Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson. Master Sgt. Gregory T. Kuhse, 38, was assigned to the 3rd Manpower Requirements Squadron at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter issued a statement on Monday saying that the "dedicated efforts" of U.S. troops working alongside Afghans will continue despite the latest deaths of airmen.

"Our deepest sympathies go out to the families of these brave Americans who died in service to this vital mission, and our thoughts remain with all of our troops serving overseas during this holiday season so that we may have peace and security at home," Carter said in the statement