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Navy Lt. j.g. Francis L. Toner IV

Died March 27, 2009 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom

26, of Narragansett, R.I.; died March 27 when an Afghan National Army soldier opened fire on personnel assigned to Combined Security Transition Command — Afghanistan at Camp Shaheen, Mazar-E-Sharif, Afghanistan. Also killed was Navy Lt. Florence B. Choe.

Afghan soldier’s slaying of 2 officers stuns base

By Andrew Tilghman

Staff writer

Lt. j.g. Francis “Frankie” Toner and Lt. Florence Bacong Choe were taking a Friday afternoon jog along a well-worn path on the outskirts of Forward Operating Base Shaheen in Afghanistan.

Then an Afghan Army soldier raised his military-issued weapon and fatally shot the two officers. A third Navy officer was also wounded in the shootings, said Air Force Capt. Elizabeth Mathias, a spokeswoman for U.S. Forces in Afghanistan.

The Afghan soldier fatally shot himself moments after the killings, Mathias said.

The shooting stunned the sailors and soldiers living on the base, who are there to “mentor” the Afghan troops.

“I really hope that this incident doesn’t just pass as two more service members killed in Afghanistan. I want everyone to know how they died and why,” said Lt. Michael Lucrezio, a medical service corps officer assigned to the base.

“The simple fact is that they were murdered in cold blood. The guy who shot them wasn’t some random bad guy who snuck on base wearing a stolen uniform; he was an army soldier who had been vetted through the [Afghan National Army] recruiting process and trained to their basic standards,” Lucrezio said in an e-mail to Navy Times after the shooting.

Afghan officials expressed condolences for the deaths. Afghan Minister of Defense Abdul Rahim Wardak said he was “saddened and deeply regretful this tragedy occurred,” and that the incident was under investigation, according to a military press release.

Meanwhile, back at home, a Navy chaplain and senior chief knocked on the door at the Toner’s family home in Rhode Island to relay news of the 26-year-old Seabee’s death.

“The irony is that he loved those people,” Sharon Toner, the officer’s stepmother, said of Toner in an interview. “His heart just went out to the children over there because they weren’t in school and they didn’t have shoes. The poverty over there really hit him hard.”

Toner’s family had expected him home for leave the following week, his stepmother said.

Toner was assigned to Naval Facility Hawaii at Pearl Harbor, where he lived with his wife, Brooke. He was on a one-year deployment to Afghanistan to help oversee reconstruction projects in an area north of the capital.

Choe, 35, was a medical service corps officer assigned to Naval Medical Center in San Diego, where she lived with her husband, Lt. Cmdr. Chong “Jay” Choe, a urology resident at the hospital, and their 3-year-old daughter, according to a statement from the hospital.

She was born at the same hospital while her father was a career sailor, said Sonja Hanson, a spokeswoman for the hospital.

Choe contacted a Navy recruiter just days after Sept. 11, 2001, Hanson said. She also was on a one-year deployment in Afghanistan, where she helped run the medical station that served U.S. troops as well as Afghan troops and civilians, Mathias said.

Choe’s family declined requests for an interview, Hanson said.

The Toner family is planning a memorial service at the Merchant Marine Academy on Long Island, N.Y., where Toner earned his bachelor’s degree in 2006, his stepmother said.

Toner was voted prom king at his high school and played football in college, his family said. He sought a Navy career immediately after his graduation.

“He was going to do a full 20 years. His long-term goal was to someday work at the Pentagon. He loved, loved the Navy, loved the Seabees and he never had any thoughts about doing anything else,” his stepmother said.

Sharon Toner said her stepson’s death was a “freak event.”

“I don’t see that as a reflection on the Afghan people. In America we have people right here — you read it in the newspaper every day, people murdering other people and doing things like that. That doesn’t reflect on the society as a whole,” she said.

Flags to be flown at half-staff for slain sailor

The Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Gov. Don Carcieri has ordered U.S. and state flags flown at half-staff in honor of a sailor from Rhode Island who was killed in Afghanistan last week.

The Defense Department says Lt. j.g. Francis Toner and another sailor were fatally shot by an Afghan National Army soldier who opened fire at Camp Shaheen in northern Afghanistan.

The 26-year-old Narragansett man served as a garrison engineer. His family tells the Providence Journal that Toner taught young Afghans how to play softball and would ask family members back home to send clothes and shoes for the poorest children.

Toner attended the Merchant Marine Academy and shook hands with President George W. Bush at the graduation ceremony in 2006.

Flags will remain at half-staff until Toner is laid to rest.

Pearl Harbor community remembers Toner

By Eloise Aguiar

Honolulu Advertiser

A Pearl Harbor-based naval officer assigned to help train the Afghan military was fatally shot March 27 by an Afghan National Army soldier, the Pentagon said.

Lt. j.g. Francis L. Toner IV, 26, of Narragansett, R.I., was one of two U.S. sailors killed by the soldier, who opened fire on personnel assigned to Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan at Camp Shaheen in Mazar-E-Sharif, Afghanistan.

Also killed was Navy Lt. Florence B. Choe, 35, of El Cajon, Calif., the Pentagon said.

Toner was born in Rhode Island and his family moved to Westlake Village, Calif., a Los Angeles suburb. The 2001 graduate of Westlake High School was a star running back for the school’s championship football team as well as homecoming king.

After high school he was recruited to play football at the Merchant Marine Academy, where he earned a degree in Marine Engineering and Shipyard Management. He became a Navy officer in 2006.

He was deployed in October to Afghanistan, where he tried to teach soldiers and children how to play softball, a relative said.

“He’d send us these videos and it was kind of funny because they thought you were supposed to hit people with the ball,” his aunt, Linda Moosekian, told the Ventura County (Calif.) Star.

Toner had been scheduled to be back on the mainland for leave with his wife, Brooke, tomorrow, said Dale Glenn, bishop for the Kailua 3rd Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Toner and his wife had been members of the church since they arrived in Kailua in 2006. The announcement of Toner’s death at Sunday church service devastated the congregation, Glenn said.

“He sacrificed for others, not just in his death,” Glenn said. “He was the guy, especially in our church ... who was always there.”

Toner never turned down a request for help and would provide his truck for moves, cook at church barbecues and organize sports for the kids, Glenn said.

Toner and his wife taught Sunday school and the children loved them like they were their parents, the pastor said.

“We saw the kids sneaking out [of church after the announcement] and we found them in the back room crying,” he said.

Toner was commissioned into the Navy in 2006 and entered training at Civil Engineer Corps Officer School, after which he went to Pearl Harbor.

Capt. Bret J. Muilenburg, commander of Naval Facilities Engineering Command Hawaii, said Toner was on a one-year assignment.

“He made a great difference while in Afghanistan just as he did while serving in Hawaii,” Muilenburg said. “Those he touched during his life will never forget his smile, sense of humor, competitive spirit, outstanding work ethic and love of country.”

The military refuted initial reports that the sailors were killed by an insurgent wearing an Afghan army uniform.

“He was not killed by an insurgent as the initial press release has stated. He was killed by an Afghanistan army personnel,” said Denise Emsley, spokeswoman for Naval Facilities Engineering Command Hawaii.

The incident is under investigation. Emsley said all Afghan army recruits are vetted prior to joining.

In addition to his wife, his survivors include his father and stepmother, Frank and Sharon Toner; his mother, Becky Toner; a sister, Amanda; and brothers, John and Michael.

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