F-16 pilot killed in Michigan crash flew combat missions last year in Afghanistan
Stars and Stripes December 11, 2020
WASHINGTON — The Air National Guard pilot killed in an F-16 crash Tuesday in a remote area of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was a 37-year-old combat-tested veteran of the Afghanistan war, Guard officials said Friday.
Air Force Capt. Durwood Jones of Albuquerque, N.M., was killed when the fighter jet crashed into the Hiawatha National Forest during a nighttime training exercise, according to a National Guard statement.
Jones was flying with the 115th Fight Wing, out of the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s Truax Field, a base just outside of Madison, Wisc., some 250 miles south of the crash site.
Jones’ body was located Thursday, more than 24 hours after a massive search effort by military troops and local first responders was launched following the crash. The effort was complicated by the dense forest along Lake Michigan’s shores where the jet went down and by communications issues in the remote area, official said.
The Air Force has begun an investigation into the incident, said Col. Bart Van Roo, the 115th Fight Wing’s commander. He declined to say Friday whether investigators had initial findings about the cause of the crash. He estimated a full probe of the incident could take nearly one year.
Jones, whose call sign was “Hawk,” joined the Air National Guard in 2011 and had been flying F-16s since 2015, the Guard said. He deployed to Japan in 2015 and South Korea in 2017. In 2019, he served a combat tour in Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, the U.S. counterterrorism mission there.
Jones’ awards included two Air Medals with combat “C” devices awarded for operating under hostile combat conditions.
He is survived by his wife and two children, according to the National Guard
Van Roo said earlier Friday, before Jones identity was released to the public, that the loss had taken an emotional toll on his unit.
“Today is a day for mourning, the 115th Fighter Wing and the entire Wisconsin National Guard stands with the pilot’s family as we grieve the loss of a great airman and patriot,” he said. “We are an extremely close-knit group at the fighter wing, the loss of one of our own brings immeasurable sadness to every member of our organization.”
Van Roo also said he had ordered the wing’s aircraft grounded indefinitely after Jones’ crash.
“It is grounded based on what we determine to be a safe time for us to fly again,” he said. “Obviously we conduct a mission that we need to continue, and we are slowly and deliberately looking at all things until we determine that we are safe to fly again.”