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Alaskan Command operations leader killed in civilian aircraft crash

An Air Force fighter pilot and colonel who served as operations chief for the U.S. military's Alaska Command was killed Tuesday when a small civilian plane crashed outside a base, the Air Force said.

Air Force Col. Mark “Tyson” Sletten, 46, of Anchorage, was one of two occupants of a two-seat Piper PA-18 plane that crashed in Crescent Lake near Moose Pass on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula. An underwater drone on Thursday found Sletten's body and that of a Utah man, 41-year-old Paul Kondrat, inside the plane, which was about 190 feet (59 meters) underwater, Alaska State Police said in a news release.

“The news was devastating to all of us here at Alaskan Command, and the loss of Tyson is felt throughout our community,” Lt. Gen. David Nahom, chief of Alaskan Command, said in a statement. “Right now, our priority is to take care of his family and our teammates who were close to Tyson.”

Two hikers witnessed the accident and notified emergency responders. The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the accident.

The Alaskan Command is headquartered at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska, about 100 miles from the lake where the plane crashed. The organization, which reports to the U.S. Northern Command, oversees homeland security missions and other operations involving nearly 27,000 U.S. troops in Alaska.

According to a public LinkedIn profile, Sletten has been the command's operations chief since May 2021. Before arriving in Alaska, the flight instructor led, among other things, the 8th Fighter Squadron, an F-16 Fighting Falcon training unit, at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

According to LinkedIn, Sletten graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2000.

Courtney Mabeus-Brown is the senior reporter at Air Force Times. She is an award-winning journalist who previously covered the military for Navy Times and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Virginia, where she first stepped foot on an aircraft carrier. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy and others.

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