Decorated combat veteran identified as pilot killed in fighter jet crash
UPPER MICHIGAN (WBAY) - Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers ordered flags lowered to half-staff starting at sunrise Saturday to honor Capt. Durwood “Hawk” Jones, who was identified as the 115th Fighter Wing pilot who died when a fighter jet crashed in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
The 37-year-old decorated combat veteran was a native of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
In ordering the flags lowered through sunset next Friday, Gov. Evers wrote, “Capt. Jones was a decorated combat veteran, a selfless hero serving both at home and abroad, and a caring father, husband, and son... Our hearts break for his wife and kids and his family, and Kathy and I join the people of our state in offering our condolences. We will continue to keep them in our thoughts and prayers. We’re thinking of all of Capt. Jones’ loved ones and his fellow service members in the 115th Fighter Wing and the Wisconsin National Guard.”
Jones was part of the Pacific Command Theater Support in Japan in 2015 and Korea in 2017. In 2019, he deployed to Afghanistan as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.
Capt. Jones joined the Air National Guard in 2011. He graduated from F-16 basic qualification in 2015.
Jones was awarded two Air Medals for those “who have been personally exposed to hostile action or under significant risk of hostile action.”
The United States Air Force is leading the investigation in the crash with help from Wisconsin’s 115th Fighter Wing.
“The investigation is a deliberate, three-phase process that examines all aspects of this incident,” said Col. Bart Van Roo, 115th Fighter Wing Commander. Col. Van Roo held a news conference Friday at Truax Field in Madison.
Col. Van Roo says the investigation will look at pre-flight activities, maintenance, aircraft integrity, pilot briefings and training.
The three phases are described as:
PHASE 1: the initial safety board gathers and preserves information. This takes about one week.
PHASE 2: the site investigation board looks to find out what happened. This takes about 30 days.
PHASE 3: the accident investigation board looks to identify cause. A final report could take one year.
“On behalf of the 115th Fighter Wing, I once again want to express my sincere condolences to the family of our pilot. Know that we are holding you all in our thoughts and prayers.”
The 115th Fighter Wing has grounded flights for now.
“Right now we’re deliberate about understanding when we’re going to fly next, but know we have stood down for now our current flying operations,” Van Roo said.
At about 8 p.m. Tuesday, the Capt. Jones was on a routine training mission in an F-16 Fighting Falcon when the jet crashed in Delta County. The jet crashed in the remote Hiawatha National Forest.
“After an exhaustive search that began immediately following the aircraft disappearance, it is with deep sorrow that we report that the pilot of the downed aircraft lost their life in the crash,” Van Roo said.
Local, state and federal agencies helped with the search.
“We are extremely grateful from the support and assistance that we received from those agencies and neighboring states. In particular, the Michigan State Police, the Delta County Sheriff’s Office, the Michigan National Guard, and National Guard forces from Minnesota, Indiana and Iowa,” Van Roo said.
“The Fighter Wing and the Wisconsin National Guard are deeply saddened by this tragic loss. Our dedication to duty and the training that is required of this job develops a bond that is like no other. The loss of a member like this is a very difficult thing for such a committed group of professionals. our sadness over this loss will dissipate, but the scar may never heal,” the commander said, “Yesterday, I did want every commander prays they never have to do. I was accompanied by our base chaplain as we informed the pilot’s spouse and immediate family of the loss of their loved one.”
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