Memorial Day – Fallen, but not forgotten

Teammate Frank Toner

LTJG Frank Toner, USN
LTJG Frank Toner, US Navy

Shipmate Jeff Gray

LCDR Jeff Gray
LCDR Jeff Gray, US Navy

MAZAR-E-SHARIF, Afghanistan (NNS) — Lieutenant (j.g.) Francis L. Toner IV, Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Hawaii, died March 27, 2009, when an Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier opened fire on personnel assigned to Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan (CSTC-A) at Camp Shaheen, in Mazar-E-Sharif, Afghanistan.

Another Navy officer also died, Lieutenant Florence B. Choe, Medical Service Corps, and a third was wounded. The ANA soldier killed himself immediately after the incident.

At the time of the incident, Toner was halfway through a year long Individual Augmentation (IA) assignment at Camp Shaheen with the Afghan Regional Security Integration Command (ARSIC) North. He began training for the IA assignment in June 2008 and was expected to return October 2009.

“Toner was an exceptional young man and naval officer. He made a great difference while in Afghanistan just as he did while serving in Hawaii. Those he touched during his life will never forget his smile, sense of humor, competitive spirit, outstanding work ethic and love of country,” said Captain Bret J. Muilenburg, NAVFAC Hawaii commanding officer.

Toner, 26, was born in Panorama City, California, and later moved to Narragansett, Rhode Island. He earned his Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Marine Engineering and Shipyard Management at the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York. Upon graduation, he was directly commissioned into the United States Navy.

After gaining experience on five vessels with the Merchant Marines, Toner attended, and graduated from, the Civil Engineer Corps Officers School, Class 236, in November 2006. Soon after he reported to his first duty assignment at NAVFAC Hawaii, he became the Officer in Charge of Self Help (a Seabees unit). His last assignment at the command prior to deploying to Afghanistan was as assistant Public Works officer for West Oahu.

Toner is survived by his wife, Brooke, parents and three siblings.
CSTC-A held a memorial service on Sunday morning, March 29, 2009, to honor Toner and his fallen colleague. NAVFAC Hawaii is planning a Pearl Harbor service later this week.

Lt. Cmdr. Jeffrey J. Gray, age 40, of Mound, MN, US Naval Flight Officer assigned to VS22 aboard the Harry S. Truman, died on a training mission in his aircraft on September 10, 2002. Survived by loving parents, Marie Gray-Thompson (Bob), Ron Gray (Jan); sisters, Cheryl Gray Moore (Steve), Paula Gray Mitchell, DC (Anthony); nephews, James “JP” and Tanner Mitchell, Cy Moore; aunts, cousins, and other family. Jeffrey is a graduate of Mound-Westonka and Mankato State University.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ U.S. Navy search teams found the wreckage of a military plane that crashed into the Caribbean Sea off Puerto Rico, and all three servicemen on board were believed dead, the Navy said Thursday.

Searchers spotted the wreckage at dusk Wednesday some 25 miles southeast of Puerto Rico, said Cmdr. Ernest Duplessis, a spokesman for the U.S. Second Fleet in Norfolk, Va.

Human remains were found amid the wreckage. Navy ships and helicopters continued to search Thursday for additional remains and wreckage.

The military lost radio contact with the Navy S-3B Viking jet about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday during an in-flight refueling exercise off the island of Vieques.

The $27 million plane, used for in-flight refueling and sea surveillance, had taken off from the USS Harry Truman aircraft carrier off the U.S. territory’s east coast.

It was in the air for about an hour before it disappeared, Duplessis said.

The cause of the crash was under investigation, the Navy said. No severe weather was reported in the area, the weather service said.

The servicemen on the plane were identified as pilot Lt. J.G. Thomas McCombie, 25, of State College, Pa.; Lt. Cmdr. Jeffrey Gray, 40, of Mound, Minn.; and Lt. Cmdr. Michael Chalfant, 36, of Jacksonville, Fla.

The plane went down during exercises at the Navy’s bombing range on Vieques.