The U.S. Defense Department has identified the Air Force members who died in a Jan. 27 crash of their Bombardier E-11A aircraft in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan.
The two are: Lt. Col. Paul K. Voss, 46, of Yigo, Guam. Lt. Col. Paul K. Voss, 46, of Yigo, Guam. He was assigned to Headquarters Air Combat Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., and Capt. Ryan S. Phaneuf, 30, of Hudson, N.H. He was assigned to the 37th Bomb Squadron at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D.
Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett said on Twitter, “Our hearts are with the families & friends of Lt Col Paul K. Voss and Capt Ryan S. Phaneuf. The Air Force lost these two brave Airmen in their support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Their service & dedication to our nation will always be remembered.”
The remains were recovered from the crash site by a team of Navy SEALS on Jan. 28. U.S. personnel also retrieved what they believe is the plane’s flight data recorder.
Voss and Phaneuf were flying in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and were the only two people onboard the plane at the time of the crash.
Voss was 25-year Air Force veteran who started his career as an enlisted airman. He was commission in 2001 after attending Officer Training School. He was chief of the exercises with ACC’s directorate of operations.
Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, said in a statement, “It’s really hard to describe how sad we are at the loss of two great airmen.”
“Lt. Col. Paul Voss was our brother and teammate. The men and women of our Air Force knowingly put themselves in harm’s way, and I’m thankful for great Americans like them. Our thoughts and prayers are with their family members and our fellow airmen during this difficult time.”
According to a 28th Bomb Wing statement, Phaneuf was a B-1 heavy bomber pilot.
“This is a tragic loss to the Air Force and our Ellsworth Family,” Col. David Doss, 28th Bomb Wing commander, said in the statement.
The cause of the crash is under investigation.
The Taliban hold much of Ghazni province, however, the Jan. 27 plane crash there is not expected to derail U.S.-Taliban peace talks if the crash investigation determines, as expected, that it was not the result of hostile action.
The U.S. and the Taliban are negotiating a reduction in hostilities or a cease-fire to allow the signing of a peace agreement that could bring home an estimated 13,000 American troops and open the way to a broader post-war deal for Afghans.
A journalist in the area, Tariq Ghazniwal, said Jan. 27 that he saw the burning aircraft. He told The Associated Press that he saw two bodies and that the front of the aircraft was badly burned but its body and tail were hardly damaged.
The crash site is about 6 miles from a U.S. military base, Ghazniwal said. Local Taliban were deployed to protect the crash site, he said. In its statement Jan. 28, the U.S. military command in Kabul thanked local Afghans for treating the remains with respect. It said that after removing the remains, U.S. forces destroyed the remnants of the E-11A aircraft.