Pilot killed in crash at Shaw AFB identified as one of USAF’s best

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The USAF F-16 pilot of the 20th Fighter Wing -who died in a fatal crash on Tuesday night- has been identified as a 1st Lieutenant by the name of David Schmitz.

Schmitz, in many ways, was the embodiment of the Air Force dream. Earning his private pilot’s license at seventeen and serving as an enlisted man before ever stepping foot in a cockpit.

Schmitz “got his pilot’s license when he was 17 years old,” according to 20th FW Commander Colonel Larry Sullivan. “He enlisted in the United States Air Force and served with distinction as a load master on a C-17, supporting some of our nation’s most sensitive missions. And he never gave up on his lifelong goal of flying for the United States Air Force as a pilot.”

After serving his time in the enlisted ranks, Schmitz went to Officer Training School and continued to exceed expectations, breaking the barriers many prior-enlisted men face.

He graduated in the top of his class in pilot training and he earned a spot in F-16s and here at the 77th,” said Sullivan. “Our condolences go out to the Schmitz family. To the Gamblers and to all of Team Shaw. “

Described by Sullivan as “one of our very best,” Schmitz’s time with the 77th Fighter Squadron “Gamblers” was one of unrestrained excellence.

“He loved his family,” Sullivan said in a statement on his Facebook page. “He loved his country. And he loved to fly.”

Schmitz was preparing for combat operations at the time of his death.

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