A funeral for Airman 1st Class Andrew Padilla, 22, of Santa Maria will be held on the Central Coast, 10 days after he died in a car crash in Clovis, New Mexico.
Padilla belonged to the 27th Special Operations Maintenance Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base, near Clovis.
The passenger in a Hyundai, Padilla was ejected when the vehicle rolled over several times early July 13 and was pronounced dead at the scene, according to a Clovis Police Department news release.
The driver, Tylan Bolden, 20, who also serves in the Air Force and reportedly is from Franklin, Louisiana, lost control of the vehicle as it was traveling at a high rate of speed, police added. Alcohol is believed to be factor in the crash which remains under investigation, according to police.
“A1C Andrew Padilla was known as a dedicated, hard-working troop who loved to learn about his job and thoroughly enjoyed life,” said Maj. Clifford Scruggs, 27 SOMXS commander.
The memorial service is planned for 11 a.m. July 23 at Dudley-Hoffman Mortuary, 1003 E. Stowell Road, in Santa Maria. Viewing will be held from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. that day. Burial is planned for the Santa Maria Cemetery.
Friends and relatives are posting remembrances on his Facebook page, expressing shock and sadness at his death.
“The outpouring of love people have for you is amazing! You touched so many lives!” one post said.
The Santa Maria native chose the military in order to instill discipline within him and better his life, according to his sister, who influenced Padilla’s decision to enlist.
“I know my brother had struggles and difficulty adjusting to the military lifestyle at first, but he truly loved what he was doing,” his sister, Senior Airman Tiffany Padilla, 374th Operations Support Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan, told Air Force journalists.
“He would recount his experiences to me and I would offer all the advice I could — he was always my little brother,” she added.
In his spare time, Andrew loved working out and maintaining proper fitness standards.
“It was the perfect way for him to let go of daily stressors,” Tiffany said. “He would use the gym to mentally recover from a tough day at work or when he felt he had let leadership even remotely down.”
Andrew was assigned to the AC-130 gunship section as an armament load crew member, according to the Air Force Base. He was responsible for loading and maintaining the 30, 40 and 105 millimeter weapons systems on the Spectre and Stinger II models.
According to supervisors, one of the first questions he asked upon arriving at Cannon was how soon he could deploy. The airman was noted as being adamant about deploying and accomplishing his job whenever and wherever he could.
Andrew eventually deployed to Afghanistan in late 2013, the Air Force said.
Air Force officials said Andrew completed Career Development Courses while overseas, returning with the skills and knowledge of a seasoned veteran and quickly applying that expertise to his duties once he returned to Cannon.
Supervisors mentioned that he was a studious airman, great co-worker and amazing friend who will be extremely missed.
“We didn’t have the best upbringing; My brother kept a lot of our childhood burdens bottled up for a long time,” Tiffany said. “It wasn’t until he joined the Air Force that he found structure and motivation for life.”
“He was able to learn how to respect others and himself,” she continued. “He found something he was really passionate about and I’m so happy he was able to share it with all his wingmen.”