One served numerous tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and was awarded the Bronze Star — twice. The other fathered five children and was opening his home to another, an orphan. And on Monday, the airmen were killed after a free fall during training.
The airmen, identified as Tech. Sgt. Timothy Officer Jr., 32, and Tech. Sgt. Marty Bettelyoun, 35, were killed while participating in routine training exercises, described as free fall training, at Elgin Air Force based in Florida, NBC News reported.
Officer and Bettelyoun were both Special Tactics Airmen in the 24th Special Operations Wing, a force based at nearby Hurlburt Field, that goes to battle with Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets, and Army Rangers, the New York Daily News added. They are described as the branch’s special operations forces on the ground, and are comprised of pararescuemen, military weathermen, and forecasters.
After they were killed Monday, the airmen — identified by the military Tuesday — were being remembered not just for their valiant service, but for their exemplary qualities as human beings.
“The man was capable of transforming anyone’s bad day into a great day,” said Logan Warnhuis, a friend of Officer’s. “You could always see him with a smile on his face and everyone loved to be around him. His sense of humor was something nobody could get enough of.”
The Air Force Times said the airmen were killed during a free fall training at the base. How exactly the fall occurred, their injuries, or what caused the incident, are under investigation. Findings may not be released for a year.
After the fall, both men were rushed to the hospital. It’s not clear if they were killed instantly, or died later at the hospital.
Both airmen were highly respected. Officer served for 14 years and was deployed several times to Iraq and Afghanistan. He was awarded the Bronze Star twice, one of them with the “V” device for valor. Timothy was his platoon’s tactical air control party airman, a job his comrades said he performed impressively. He is survived by his parents.
Bettelyoun leaves behind a wife, Jennifer, and five kids, aged 14 to 3. A combat controller who also served with the 720th Operations Support Squadron, he spent 15 years with the Air Force and fought in missions in many combat zones worldwide. In addition to their five children, Marty was welcoming an orphaned family member into his home and was raising money to build an addition.
Their colonel, Col. Wolfe Davidson, lauded the men for their service and character.
“They were respected by their peers for not only their ability on the battlefield, but also for their incredible commitment to friends and family. In the face of this tragedy, we will honor their service and their sacrifice, and we request others respect their family’s privacy as they take it one day at a time.”
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