A 30-year-old Air Force pilot from Colorado Springs was killed Saturday in a plane crash in the Horn of Africa, the Department of Defense announced Monday.

Capt. Ryan P. Hall was one of four airmen killed in the crash, which happened as they returned from a mission near Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, Africa. Hall, who was in the midst of his seventh deployment, was assigned to the 319th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

An Air Force Academy graduate, 1st Lt. Justin J. Wilkens, 26, also died in the crash, the Air Force said.

The airmen were aboard a U-28A aircraft that was on its way back from a mission to support Operation Enduring Freedom. Though Enduring Freedom is often associated with the war in Afghanistan, special operations forces also target terrorists in east Africa.

The Horn of Africa task force has also battled piracy and intercepted illicit weapons shipments.

The plane — a single-engine, fixed-wing aircraft — is typically used for reconnaissance and surveillance missions to support Army Green Berets and Navy SEALs.

There were no initial signs that the plane was shot down, said Staff Sgt. Ryan Whitney, spokesman for Air Force 1st Special Operations Wing.

Few other details of the incident have been released.

The three other airmen killed in the crash also were stationed at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

Capt. Nicholas S. Whitlock, 29, of Newnan, Ga. and Wilkens, of Bend, Ore., were assigned to the 34th Special Forces Operations Squadron.

Senior Airman Julian S. Scholten, 26, of Upper Marlboro, Md., was assigned to the 25th Intelligence Squadron.

Hall joined the Air Force in 2004 through the Reserve Officer Training Corps at The Citadel and was assigned to Hurlburt Field, Fla in 2007. He logged more than 1,300 combat flight hours, Whitney said.

He has received numerous medals and commendations, including the Air Medal and the Air Achievement Medal.

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