Longview airman dies in Florida training exercise

Longview airman dies in Florida training exercise

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Airman First Class Keigan Baker

A 24-year-old Airman who died during a training exercise in Florida Thursday has been identified as Keigan Baker of Longview, according to the Air Force.

Baker, a special Tactics combat controller, was taking part in the Air Force combat dive course Thursday when he disappeared just after 11 a.m., according to an Air Force press release.

Search and rescue efforts launched by the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center, the Coast Guard Station Panama City, and others recovered Baker’s body at about 4:30 p.m.

“This is a devastating loss to the entire Special Tactics community,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Matthew Allen, commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing. “We are very grateful for Keigan’s willingness to serve our nation and vow to honor his memory.”

Baker had been assigned to the Special Tactics Training Squadron, 24th Special Operations Wing out of Hurlburt Field, Florida, the service confirmed. The Longview native enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in June 2018 and was named an honor graduate upon completion of basic training, according to the press release.

A spot in the Air Force’s two-year combat control program followed, leading to Baker’s participation in the Special Warfare Pre-Dive school at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland prior to joining the Air Force Combat Dive Course in Panama City.

Special Tactics combat controllers are widely renowned for combat reconnaissance, coordinating precision strikes and conducting personnel recovery operations.

Graduates of the dive courses are also certified as Special Operations Command combatant divers, according to an Air Force.

“Keigan’s loss is felt across the entire training wing, where the safety of our trainees is our top priority,” Air Force Col. Parks Hughes, commander of the Special Warfare Training Wing, said through the press release.

Baker’s awards include the Air Force Good Conduct Medal, the Air Force Basic Military Training Honor Graduate Ribbon, the Air Force Training Ribbon and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

He also earned a bachelor of arts degree from Eastern Washington University.

The circumstances surrounding the incident remain under investigation.

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