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Soldiers Killed in Combat Exercise

November 14, 2002

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FORT POLK, La. (AP) _ Two soldiers were killed Thursday during Army training exercises at a mock village used in combat exercises. In Utah, an Air Force Reserve F-16 crashed, killing the pilot.

The crash was the second fatal accident involving F-16s in Utah in less than three weeks.

The soldiers killed in Louisiana were with a brigade of the 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Ky., training at the Army’s Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk. No details on the nature of their deaths were released.

John Minton, a civilian public affairs officer at Fort Campbell, confirmed the deaths.

Both soldiers were flown to Fort Polk hospital after the 5:30 a.m. accident, Fort Polk spokesman Ron Elliott said. Their identities were withheld until relatives could be notified.

The 101st Airborne is a rapid deployment, air assault division trained to go anywhere in the world in 36 hours. About 4,000 soldiers from the division’s 3rd Brigade, 187th Regiment, served in Afghanistan until August. Elliott did not know if the two soldiers had been overseas.

In Utah, the single-seat F-16C went down in the desert Wednesday afternoon, killing Lt. Col. Dillion L. McFarland, 40, a member of the 419th Fighter Wing, an Air Force Reserve unit.

Authorities located the wreckage and McFarland’s body about 2 1/2 hours later, said Stephanie Johns, a fighter wing spokeswoman. There was no immediate word on what caused the crash.

McFarland, a commercial pilot, husband and father of two who lived near Hill Air Force Base, joined the 419th in 1998 and had more than 3,000 flying hours in an F-16, including 85 combat hours, Johns said.

``Our deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of the warrior we lost,″ fighter wing commander Col. Wayne Conroy said.

McFarland’s single-seat jet crashed about 25 miles northeast of Wendover, Utah, over the military’s test and training range.

McFarland’s jet was carrying no live weapons, but had an inert missile used for training purposes, Maj. Shawn Mecham said.

On Oct. 25, two F-16Cs collided about 25 miles southeast of Wendover. One pilot ejected safely.

The body of the other pilot, Lt. Jorma Huhtala, was found the following day after an extensive search, several miles from the wreckage of his plane.

That crash remains under investigation.