Air Force captain from Eagan killed in Afghanistan
St. Paul, Minn. — Military officials say an Eagan man was one of two crew members killed over the weekend in Afghanistan.
His death comes just days after three Minnesota National Guard soldiers were killed in a missile attack last week near Basra, Iraq.
Capt. Thomas Gramith, 27, of Eagan, Minn., was killed along with Capt. Mark R. McDowell, 26, of Colorado Springs, Colo.
Both men were part of the 4th Fighter Wing Squadron, based at the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina.
The unit provides close air support to ground troops in combat. A spokesman for the U.S. Air Force says the two crewmembers died when their fighter jet crashed in eastern Afghanistan.
They say the crash was not caused by enemy fire, and investigators are trying to determine the cause. It happened at about 3 a.m. Kabul time early Saturday morning.
Officials say a team of coalition and U.S. forces responded to the crash, immediately securing the area and recovering the bodies of the two airmen.
Family members for Thomas Gramith did not return calls seeking comment.
An Air Force spokesman says the family was expected to travel to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware Sunday to meet his body.
Staff Sgt. Shawn Jones says the 4th Fighter Wing is mourning the loss of two of its crew.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families, and the airmen of the 4th Fighter Wing will surely miss these proud airmen," said Jones.
The unit has lost four crew members in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a conference call from Kuwait Sunday, Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he couldn't comment on Gramith's death because the investigation was still in progress.
Gramith's death comes just days after three Minnesota National Guard soldiers were killed in a missile attack in Iraq.
Those soldiers were part of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division, based in Rosemount.
As part of his Middle East tour, Gov. Pawlenty says he met with members of the unit to thank them for their service.
"of course, no words can describe the sense of loss that their families are experiencing," he said. "But we do want to convey to those families that we are thankful for their sons and what they represented, the values that they represented and the service to our country, and of course offer any assistance we can give to the families during this terrible time of grief and loss and mourning."
The fighter jet crash is still under investigation. More details are expected to be released this week.