Air Force: Missing Afghan trainees were about to graduate
LOWNDES CO., GA (WALB) - Two Afghan trainees who went missing from Moody Air Force Base were scheduled to graduate from their class at the end of December.
In a release, officials said the two male students, with the 81st Fighter Squadron at the base, did not report for duty on Monday.
Law enforcement agencies in the immediate area confirmed they received an alert about the missing men from Air Force officials Tuesday.
According to Korey Fratini with Moody AFB Public Affairs, the two men were last seen Friday during normal hours at the base, and would not be releasing the names or pictures of them.
Officials said there was no immediate indication of where the two may have been headed, but noted that the trainees were allowed to leave the base under the same rules as other Air Force personnel.
Air Force and Defense officials noted "there's no reason to believe either of the two pose any kind of threat." According to one Defense official, with all the US-based training the military does with foreign service members, there's the occasional individual "who will wander off base" to get a taste of the "better life in America."
However, given the recent events in San Bernardino, officials said they understand the concern and anxiety of some in the vicinity of Moody and are working with law enforcement to find the two.
In September 2014, three Afghan National Army officers disappeared during a training exercise in Cape Cod. They were later found trying to cross the border into Canada near Niagara Falls.
The Moody Air Force Base release:
Two male Afghan air force students did not report for duty yesterday at their regular maintenance training at Moody AFB in Valdosta, Georgia. Both are assigned to the 81st Fighter Squadron. They have been at Moody since. February 2015 and were screened prior to their arrival in the United States more than a year ago. The students have trained alongside American counterparts for the entirety of 2015 and do not pose any apparent threat. There is a well-coordinated process among federal agencies to locate the individuals as quickly as possible and return them accordingly to the proper authorities to manage their present situation.
The search for the two missing men comes almost 11 months after a special ceremony was held to officially reactivate the 81st Fighter Squadron out of Columbus Air Force Base in Columbus, Mississippi, charged with training the Afghan airmen. The base began receiving the new airmen in February.
MORE: Moody AFB prepares for Afghan pilots
In August of 2014, the Air Force selected Moody as the training location for Afghan A-29 Super Tucano pilots and crew members.
The Air Force said that Moody would support 20 planes, 17 Air Force instructor pilots, and 24 maintenance and support personnel, to train a total of 30 Afghan pilots and 90 Afghan maintenance crew members over a four year period.
The Air Force said the The 81st Fighter Squadron is a 'tenant unit' at Moody AFB, and falls under command of the 14th Operations Group and 14th Flying Training Wing at Columbus AFB.
Lt. Co. Jeffery Hogan assumed command of the fighter squadron in January, and remarked that the Air Force had "never done this mission in this way before, ever."
The A-29 Super Tucano Aircraft that the Afghan airmen have been working and training on are scheduled to be taken to Afghanistan with them at the end of their mission in 2018.
Moody Air Force Base is located about 14 miles northeast of Valdosta, Georgia.
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