AF Special Ops officer killed in Kabul shooting

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An officer assigned to Air Force Special Operations Command died Saturday of wounds suffered from a gunshot in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Lieutenant Colonel John Darin Loftis, 866th Air Expeditionary Squadron, was deployed in support of OPERATION Enduring Freedom and working in the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Ministry of the Interior with the AfPak Hands program as the chief plans advisor. The AfPak Hands program stood up in September 2009 to develop a cadre of specially trained U.S. servicemembers skilled in Afghan and Pakistani culture and language.

"Our deepest condolences go out to Darin's family during this difficult time," said Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel, AFSOC commander. "Our efforts are focused on helping them and we share in their sorrow.

"J.D. embodied the first SOF truth that humans are more important than hardware, and through his work with the Afghan people, he was undoubtedly bettering their society. We will never forget, and the Afghan people should never forget, of the valuable contributions he made to their country and community."

Loftis was a space and missile officer who became a regional affairs strategist in 2008. He entered the Air Force in 1996, receiving his commission through Officer Training School. Prior to deploying in March 2011, he had been assigned to the U.S. Air Force Special Operations School, Air Force Special Operations Training Center, Hurlburt Field, Fla.

Loftis was previously awarded the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal and Army Achievement Medal.

"Darin was a great American, but more importantly he was a devoted father to our two daughters, a loving husband and caring son," said his wife, Holly B. Loftis. "We'd like to thank our friends and community for all of your thoughts and prayers, and we ask the media to respect our privacy during this very difficult time."

While assigned to a Provincial Reconstruction Team in 2009, Loftis was said to "have gained so much public praise because he was fluent in Pashto...his ability to engage with the Afghans in their own language and earn their trust was a valuable weapon in the counterinsurgency fight," in an article by Staff Sgt. David Flaherty, 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.

"When the Afghan people see that an American is speaking Pashto, they're more inclined to open up to him, and that's the reason why he's so successful," said Mohammad Ashraf Nasari, the governor of Zabul province, Afghanistan. "He can go among the local population and get their impression of U.S. forces. He can do this better than any other soldier because he speaks their language and knows their culture."

Loftis spoke Pashto proficiently and had limited skills in Dari and Arabic. While deployed in 2009, he was given a Pashto name: Esan, meaning the quality of being generous.

The incident is under investigation by the International Security Assistance Force.