Utley, the captain, was a Kentucky native who joined the Army in 2002 to work as a signals and communications officer but later transferred to the Special Forces.
Friends said he had expected to deploy to Afghanistan last summer but received last-minute orders to go to Africa instead. His Mali assignment was scheduled to end this spring but was extended, they said.
Three weeks after the coup, on April 11, Utley sent a brief e-mail to a friend from college, Chris Atzinger, to report that he was all right and that he would write more later.
Atzinger said he and other friends of Utley’s were frustrated that the Army hasn’t given a clearer explanation of how he died. “Those little details don’t seem to add up,” Atzinger said. “All of us are resigned to the fact that we won’t ever know.”
Utley, a graduate of the University of Louisville, was a McConnell Scholar, part of a leadership program named after Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate minority leader. Less than a week after the fatal crash, McConnell gave a eulogy to Utley on the Senate floor, calling him “an American hero and patriot.”