In the space of 72 hours, two airmen deployed to Kuwait have died in separate vehicle mishaps.
Staff Sergeant Ronald J. Ouellette, 23, of Merrimack, New Hampshire, died Sept. 14 in a single-vehicle ATV crash on the flight line at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Defense Department officials announced Wednesday. The incident was not combat-related and is under investigation.
Ouellette was attached to the 42nd Aerial Port Squadron at Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts. In October 2019, he was named the unit's airman of the month, according to the squadron's Facebook page.
Officials at Westover said Ouellette was single and had no children. He had been in the Reserves for six years, said Lt. Col. Rodney Furr, 439th Airlift Wing chief of public affairs. His awards include the Air Force Achievement Medal, Air Force Reserve Meritorious Service Medal and Air Force Longevity Service Award.
"Ronald was a valued member of the Patriot Wing, and there are no words that can heal the pain his loss brings," Col. Craig C. Peters, 439th Airlift Wing commander, said in a statement. "We consider every Airman, civilian and dependent part of the team that makes all we do in the defense of our nation possible. The loss of our own, or any service member, is never easy. During this difficult time, our priority is to do all we can to lift and support his family, friends, fellow Airmen in his squadron and loved ones who are struggling."
The tragedy closely follows the death of another Massachusetts-based airman deployed to Kuwait. On Sept. 12, Senior Airman Jason Kai Phan, 26, was killed in a "single-vehicle noncombat-related" accident while he was conducting a patrol around the perimeter of Ali Al Salem.
That incident, which left two other airmen injured, is also under investigation.
Phan was from Anaheim, California, but was stationed at Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts.
Ouellette and Phan are the seventh and eighth troops to die this year in noncombat incidents while deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. In all, 12 U.S. troops have died while supporting that mission in 2020.
-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.