The Marine Corps has identified the pilot who died in an F/A-18D Hornet crash in California on Thursday night as Marine Maj. Andrew Mettler.
Mettler was the pilot and only person aboard the Hornet that crashed during a training flight near Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, according to statements by 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing released on Friday and Saturday.
By Friday afternoon, the Marine Corps had determined Mettler was dead and had recovered his remains. The Corps did not publicly release his name until 24 hours after notifying Mettler’s family, in accordance with standard military policy.
Mettler was part of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224, a component of 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing based at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina. His squadron, known as the Fighting Bengals, was in California for Service Level Training Exercise 5-23, according to the statement.
Mettler’s call sign was Simple Jack, according to the Saturday statement from the wing.
The 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing’s commander, Maj. Gen. Scott Benedict, said in the statement Saturday, “I had the great honor of flying in an F/A-18D with Simple Jack and will always remember his skill piloting the Hornet and his wry smile.”
“It is with great humility that I offer my deepest condolences to the family, loved ones, and friends of Maj. Andrew Mettler. You remain at the forefront of our thoughts and prayers.”
A native of Marietta, Georgia, Mettler graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2007 and received his commission that year, according to his LinkedIn page and the statement from the aircraft wing.
His assignments during his more than a decade and a half in the Corps included Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101, based in Miramar, California; and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 225, based in Yuma, Arizona; Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101 again, as an instructor pilot, according to materials on the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.
Mettler’s decorations include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with gold star in lieu of second award, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with gold star in lieu of second award, Navy Unit Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korea Defense Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with four bronze stars in lieu of 5th award, according to the statement from 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.
Mettler had been slated to be promoted to lieutenant colonel, according to congressional records.
“Maj. Mettler’s legacy will remain with every Marine, Sailor and civilian that he served with, and we have the obligation to continue to uphold the values that he stood for,” Benedict said in the statement. “He will be deeply missed within the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing and among his brothers and sisters at the Fighting Bengals.”
Mettler had flown out of the air station in California and crashed east of the installation at 11:54 p.m. Thursday, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing said Friday.
The Marine Corps is investigating what happened in the fatal crash, according to the wing’s statements.
Editor’s note: A photo that previously accompanied this article incorrectly identified another Marine as Maj. Andrew Mettler because of an error in the caption on the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.