The U.S. Air Force has identified the airman who fell into the Gulf of Mexico from a C-130 transport aircraft during an unplanned exit from the plan and became the subject of a massive search effort. Staff Sgt. Cole Condiff, 29, a Dallas, Texas, native, joined the Air Force in 2012.
HURLBURT FIELD — The Air Force Special Tactics airman who fell from a C-130 transport aircraft into the Gulf of Mexico late Tuesday morning has been identified as 29-year-old Staff Sgt. Cole Condiff, according to a Saturday news release from the 24th Special Operations Wing.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Massive 700-square mile search for Hurlburt airman who fell from C-130
Condiff was a static-line jumpmaster, military free-fall jumper, combat scuba diver, air traffic controller and joint terminal attack controller. He is survived by his wife and their two daughters as well as by his parents, sister and two brothers.
"Cole was a man with deep-rooted beliefs who dedicated himself to God, our freedoms, peace, and his family. He was a devoted family man within our squadron, focused on teaching his girls to be adventurous like he was," said Air Force Lt. Col. Steven Cooper, commander of the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, to which Cole had belonged.
"This is a tragic loss to the squadron, the Special Tactics community and our nation," Cooper continued in a statement released Saturday by the 24th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and teammates at this time."
The Condiff family also released a statement through the Air Force, saying, "Cole loved his country and was honored to serve to protect the freedoms we enjoy.
"Cole had a deep faith in God. Although we mourn, it is through our faith that we take comfort in knowing we will be with him again.
"He loved his family. He was a devoted husband, father, son, brother and friend. He will be greatly missed by all," the family’s statement continued.
"We would like to express our deepest and unending gratitude to those that have searched so diligently.
"We would also like to thank those who have been and continue to stand at the ready to help serve the family in this time of crisis.
"We ask for continued prayers as his wife and daughters move forward without their beloved husband and daddy.
Please pray for all of our military men, women, and families," the statement concluded.
The identification of the airman came one day after the Air Force announced that the effort to find Condiff, which had encompassed hundreds of square miles of the Gulf between Destin and Pensacola, had switched to a recovery operation.
Condiff unintentionally exited the aircraft during a parachute training mission about two miles south of Hurlburt Field, but currents in the Gulf led to a quick and extensive widening of the search area.
The Coast Guard suspended its search operations Friday, and the Air Force is taking the lead role in the efforts to locate and recover Condiff’s remains and personal effects. The Navy is also involved in that effort.
At its height last week, the search involved various units of the Coast Guard, Air Force, Army, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and local law enforcement and emergency response agencies.
The Air Force is investigating the incident, but is not yet releasing any details of that investigation.
According to the 24th SOW’s Saturday news release, Condiff, a native of Dallas, Texas, was a graduate of Sachse High School. He attended Utah Valley University and later served a two-year mission with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Spokane, Washington. Condiff enlisted in the Air Force in 2012 and immediately entered the two-year combat control training program. Upon completion, he was assigned to the 23rd STS at Hurlburt.
During his time in the Air Force, Condiff was deployed to Africa and Afghanistan. His awards and decorations include an Air Force Achievement Medal and an Air Force Commendation Medal noting participation in combat.
Just last year, through the GEICO Insurance Company’s Seats for Service program and Major League Beaseball, Condiff was able to surprise his family with an early return from a six-month overseas deployment during the All-Star Game at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C..