May 9, 2011—A disgruntled Afghan air force officer, reportedly upset over his finances, began an argument with one of his US air advisors in a building at Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan on April 27. What happened next was a tragedy that left nine Americans dead.
The veteran Afghan pilot pulled out a weapon and attacked the group of assembled US air advisors. Killed were eight USAF airmen and one US contractor.
All eight airmen were deployed to the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing at the Kabul airport, helping to train, advise, and assist the renascent Afghan air force.
The 438th AEW's advisors help instruct AAF personnel to operate the Mi-17 transport helicopter, the Mi-35 attack helicopter, and the C-27 light transport. The wing is part of the NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan (NATC-A).
The airmen killed were:
Lt. Col. Frank D. Bryant Jr., 37, of Knoxville, Tenn., who was assigned to the 56th Operations Group at Luke AFB, Ariz.;
Maj. Philip D. Ambard, 44, of Edmonds, Wash., an assistant professor of foreign languages at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.;
Maj. Jeffrey O. Ausborn, 41, of Gadsden, Ala., a C-27 instructor pilot assigned to the 99th Flying Training Squadron at Randolph AFB, Tex.;
Maj. David L. Brodeur, 34, of Auburn, Mass., an 11th Air Force executive officer at JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska;
Maj. Raymond G. Estelle II, 40, of New Haven, Conn., who was assigned to Air Combat Command headquarters at JB Langley-Eustis, Va.;
Maj. Charles A. Ransom, 31, of Midlothian, Va., a member of the 83rd Network Operations Squadron at Langley-Eustis (posthumously promoted to the rank of major on May 3);
Capt. Nathan J. Nylander, 35, of Hockley, Tex., who was assigned to the 25th Operational Weather Squadron at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.; and
MSgt. Tara R. Brown, 33, of Deltona, Fla., who was assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations at JB Andrews, Md.
Ambard, Brown, Estelle, and Ransom all worked in communications with the advisors and Afghan personnel at the airport, 438th AEW spokesman Capt. Jamie Humphries told the Daily Report.
Brodeur, an F-16 pilot by background, was training and advising the Afghans on how to develop their command and control center.
Ausborn, also a pilot, advised on the C2 center in addition to helping with C-27 instruction.
Nylander, a weather control officer, helped manage the wing's interpreter program.
ISAF identified the shooter as Ahmad Gul, 50, a veteran Afghan pilot from Tarakhail district in Kabul province. During the incident, Gul was "severely wounded" before he left the room where the initial attack took place, said ISAF officials based on initial findings of their investigation. Gul appeared to be carrying two weapons, they said.
He was later found dead at a different location within the building.
The USAF airmen were armed and their weapons were "loaded with magazines," as per the NATO training mission guidance, said Army Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, head of the NATO training mission April 30.
Humphries said the incident remains under investigation. He said he could not address any specific policy or security changes at the Kabul airport or across the NATC-A in response to the shooting, due to operational security concerns.
"The entire Air Force family is saddened by this loss and our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of these brave airmen," said Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, and CMSAF James Roy in a joint statement on the day following the tragedy.
"We will continue to advise and work towards our goal of helping the Afghan air force set conditions for a professional, fully independent, and operationally capable Afghan air force," stated spokesman Humphries.
The US civilian who died was James McLaughlin Jr., 55, of Santa Rosa, Calif. He was a contractor and retired Army lieutenant colonel who worked for MPRI, a division of L3 Communications, helping with helicopter flight instruction.
(See also our earlier coverage.)