The Air Force has released the name of a F-16 pilot declared missing during a training mission over the Adriatic Sea. Capt. Lucas Gruenther of the 31st Fighter Wing, based at Aviano Air Base in Italy, grew up in California.
Several Central California news outlets are reporting his hometown as Twain-Harte. According to the Modesto Bee, Gruenther graduated in 1999 from Summerville High in Tuolumne City, where he met his wife Cassy. The couple is expecting their first child in a matter of weeks.
Gruenther is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, according to CBS Sacramento.
KCRA-TV reports Gruenther also is the grandson of the late Bob Mathias, two-time Olympic gold medalist and congressman.
Brig. Gen Scott J. Zobrist, 31st Fighter Wing commander, said many of the U.S. Air Force's F-16 Fighting Falcons have joined the search for Gruenther:
"While not specifically designed for reconnaissance like the other aircraft already involved in the search, our F-16s have targeting pods which can be used to augment the search. The weather and size of the search area have limited our ability to provide assistance with F-16s up to this point; however, now that the ships and reconnaissance aircraft have refined the search area, we hope to help by putting more sensors and eyes out there.
"The search operation in the Adriatic is truly expansive. I'm grateful to the many Italian and U.S. professionals who are executing this mission, and I am hopeful that we will bring Captain Gruenther home safely."
As Home Post previously reported, Italian search-and-rescue crews recovered wreckage from Gruenther's F-16 Fighting Falcon on Tuesday.