Military identifies Marine Corps pilot killed in jet crash near San Diego base

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The U.S. military has identified the Marine Corps pilot who was killed Thursday when his combat jet crashed near a San Diego base during a training flight.

Maj. Andrew Mettler was piloting an F/A-18D Hornet when it went down at 11:54 p.m. Thursday near Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing said in a statement from its headquarters in Cherry Point, North Carolina.

Searchers recovered Mettler's body at the site, and the crash remains under investigation.

Known as “Simple Jack,” Mettler was a native of Georgia and stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina. He was commissioned in 2007 and was a leader in his squadron, the Fighting Bengals, at the time of his death.

“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," Maj. Gen. Scott Benedict, the commanding general of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, said in a statement.

Mettler’s career awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Korea Defense Service Medal.

The crash site was described as government property east of the air station. The site about 10 miles (16 kilometers) north of downtown San Diego is an area of largely vacant land.