Local News

Oct 6, 2010 8:55 PM by Danielle Lerner

Dan Johnson was first Vandenberg Airman killed in Afghanistan

Friends and family are in mourning after an airman stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base is killed in Afghanistan.

Dan Johnson is the first airman from Vandenberg killed in the country.

The 23 year old was killed by an improvised explosive device Tuesday, which also injured a second airman from the base.

Johnson grew up in the Midwest but joined Vandenberg's Explosive Ordinance Disposal Program, or EOD, as a bomb technician three years ago.

"He was a very quiet man, very confident, loved what he did, loved his family loved people," said Rev. Kevin Gotchal, who knew Airman Dan Johnson as an active member of South Valley Community Church in Santa maria.

It is where the 23 year old met his wife Kristen, they tied the knot this summer when Johnson returned from a year-long deployment in Iraq.

"They were happy, very happy," said Staff Sgt. Jason Polk, Johnson's supervisor.

Johnson's colleagues remember a happy, fun loving jokester.

A man who worked hard but knew how to make others laugh.

"We actually called him mustache at one point because it was so horrid that we had to make him grow it out several times just to prove how bad it was," said Polk.

Ironically KSBY News spoke with Airman Johnson back in March.

As a bomb technician, he detonated explosives to protect other troops and he knew the dangers of the job.

"You're trying to work on an IED or something like that and you know there's hostile forces around you," said Johnson. "They say you must be crazy to do what you do, and I never really thought about it, it just seemed like a cool job."

A young hero taken much too soon, and a family still struggling to imagine life without him.

"They're numb, it's so surreal to them they're just trying to get their sea legs," said Gotchal. "Their heads are spinning, it hasn't sunk in yet is what his wife told me."

It's unclear when Johnson's body will be returned to the US and service arrangements are still in the works.

Vandenberg has also lost one of its own in Iraq.

Last year Navy Commander Duane Wolfe of Los Osos was killed by an IED on Memorial Day.

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