The Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Panama City Division on Friday began a round-the-clock effort in the Gulf of Mexico to recover the remains of Staff Sgt. Cole Condiff.

Condiff, who was a combat controller with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida, was lost Nov. 5 after what the Air Force described as an “unplanned parachute departure” from a C-130 south of Hurlburt.

“The death of Staff Sgt. Condiff is devastating and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and his unit,” Navy Capt. Aaron Peters, commanding officer of the division, said in a release. “We are hopeful that our efforts bring him home and offer some measure of relief to his family.”

A Navy crew launched a vessel with side-scan sonar, unmanned underwater vehicles, and remotely-operated vehicles. The unmanned vehicles will search a 29 square-kilometer area for Condiff.

Condiff was a static-line jumpmaster, military free-fall jumper, combat scuba diver, air traffic controller and joint terminal attack controller who deployed to Africa and Afghanistan. He is survived by his wife and two daughters, his parents, sister and two brothers.

Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.

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