The military has suspended its efforts to recover the body of Staff Sgt. Cole Condiff, a combat controller who was lost in the Gulf of Mexico from a C-130 earlier this month, the Air Force said in a Saturday release.
Condiff had what the Air Force referred to as an “unplanned parachute departure” on Nov. 5, south of Hurlburt Field, Florida. Since then, four branches of the military, including the Air Force and Coast Guard, conducted round-the-clock efforts first to try to save Condiff, and later to recover his remains.
Condiff was with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, 24th Special Operations Wing, and 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.
“While this is a time of great loss across our organization, I am incredibly grateful for the response of our joint teammates, local agencies and community partners who rallied for 17 straight days to help find our airman,” 24th Commander Col. Matt Allen said in the release. “We may come from different backgrounds, but we all share a common bond of service to others. Although no substitute for bringing him home, I hope the commitment and resolve on display over the last few weeks provides a small measure of comfort for Cole’s loved ones."
"We vow to honor Cole and his family and never forget his selfless service to our nation,” Allen said.
Search techniques included underwater sonar scanning, dive operations, land patrols and airborne surveillance, the Air Force said, and joint recovery crews dove more than 100 times at locations along the nearly 50-mile span of Florida ranging from Destin to Pensacola.
The Air Force said it could resume search and recovery operations if there is any new evidence suggesting where Condiff’s remains might be. Officials are asking anyone on the water to keep an eye out for items such as a parachute or other military gear, and alert local authorities if they see anything.
The Air Force is still investigating the incident.
The units that helped with the search and recovery efforts include:
- Air Force 24th Special Operations Wing, Hurlburt Field, Fla.
- Air Force 1st Special Operations Wing, Hurlburt Field, Fla.
- Air Force 492nd Special Operations Wing, Hurlburt and Duke fields, Fla.
- Air Force 919th Special Operations Wing, Duke Field, Fla.
- Navy Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit Group 2, Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Va.
- Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division, Fla.
- Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans (La.) MH-65 Dolphin helicopter aircrew
- Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile (Ala.) HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircrew
- Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile (Ala.) MH-60 Jayhawk aircrew
- Two Coast Guard Station Destin (Fla.) 45-foot response boat-medium boat crews
- Air Force 96th Test Wing, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
- Army 7th Special Forces Group, Duke Field, Fla.
- Army 6th Ranger Training Battalion, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
- Air Force 920th Rescue Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla.
- Air Force 347th Rescue Group, Moody Air Force Base, Ga.
- Santa Rosa County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office
- Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
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 Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.