Air Force Special Operations Command has temporarily suspended all of its parachuting, diving and mountaineering training and operations in conjunction with the investigations into the deaths of two special tactics airmen from Hurlburt Field, Florida, this fall.
In an email, AFSOC spokeswoman Maj. Amanda Reeves said the suspension took effect Dec. 3 and remains in place.
“AFSOC, in coordination with U.S. Special Operations Command and the U.S. Air Force, is reviewing all equipment, safety procedures and regulations pertaining to these specialized skills,” Reeves said. “After a comprehensive evaluation is complete and any necessary changes are identified and implemented, operations are expected to resume.”
In a follow-up call, Reeves said the suspension was made in conjunction with the ongoing investigations into the separate deaths of Tech. Sgt. Peter Kraines and Staff Sgt. Cole Condiff, both with the 24th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt.
Kraines, 33, a pararescueman, was fatally injured Oct. 8 while practicing mountain rescue techniques during a training exercise in Boise, Idaho. The airman from Albany, N.Y., is survived by his wife and two children.
Condiff, 29, a combat controller with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, was lost in the Gulf of Mexico Nov. 5 after what the Air Force described as an unplanned parachute departure from a C-130 south of Hurlburt. Search operations continued for three weeks, but were ultimately unsuccessful. The Dallas native is survived by his wife and two daughters, his parents, sister and two brothers.
Reeves said it is not yet clear whether the investigations had found any problems with training, regulations, equipment or procedures that led to those airmen’s deaths.
AFSOC commander Lt. Gen. Jim Slife "takes the safety of airmen incredibly seriously,” Reeves said. “He chose to suspend these operations so command could take a thorough look at the training, regulations, procedures and equipment in place and make sure it is all as safe as possible.”
In a follow-up email, Reeves said that any time there is an accident or incident resulting in injury or death, the Air Force conducts an extensive investigation to find the causes and contributing factors. Inevitably. she said, the service learns things along the way and incorporates them into training and operations. It is the Air Force’s obligation to airmen to ensure everything is as safe as possible, and training and operations in those skills will be suspended until AFSOC is confident its safety procedures and guidance are as good as they can be to keep airmen safe, she said.
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.