'Great Airman and patriot': F-16 pilot who died in crash identified as decorated combat veteran

CLOSE'Great Airman and patriot': F-16 pilot who died in crash
identified as decorated combat veteran 1

MILWAUKEE – The Wisconsin Air National Guard pilot who died in a plane crash in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has been identified as Capt. Durwood “Hawk” Jones, 37, of Albuquerque.

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Jones was the pilot of an F-16 Fighting Falcon that crashed in the Hiawatha National Forest on Tuesday evening during a routine training exercise. A cause of the crash has not yet been determined.

Jones joined the Air National Guard in 2011 and went on to become a decorated combat veteran, having been deployed as part of a U.S. security package program in Japan and Korea in 2015 and 2017, respectively.

He was also deployed as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan in 2019, according to the Wisconsin National Guard.

Dec. 10: Wisconsin Air National Guard pilot found dead after F-16 fighter jet crash

Dec. 9: F-16 jet crashes in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula during night training; crews search for pilot

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He has been awarded two Air Medals in recognition of being exposed to hostile action, or under significant risk of hostile action.

He is survived by his wife and two children, according to the guard. 

Before joining the military, Jones graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in mathematics in 2005.

In a statement Thursday, Col. Bart Van Roo, of the 115th Fighter Wing, called Jones “a great Airman and patriot.”

“The loss of a member like this is a very difficult thing for such a committed group of professionals,” Van Roo said at a press conference in Madison on Friday. “Our sadness over this loss will dissipate, but the scar may never heal.”

Jones was participating in a series of nighttime training exercises with the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison on the night of his crash. Pilots are tasked with following flight paths designed to minimize noise to residents.

Van Roo said Friday the 115th Fighter Wing has temporarily suspended its regular flying operations.

The crash was reported at about 8 p.m. Tuesday and emergency responders did not locate Jones’ body until Thursday.

At the press conference Friday, Van Roo declined to provide any details on the crash or what preceded it, citing an open investigation. He also declined to say whether Jones ejected himself from the aircraft prior to the crash.

It may take more than a year to determine the cause of the crash, Van Roo said.

In 1995, a similar jet from Madison crashed on a wooded hilltop after its engine failed and the pilot safely ejected. 

In 2011, a pilot flying the same kind of aircraft survived after ejecting himself over Adams County during a training mission. The aircraft was found south of New Chester after it hit an unoccupied summer cottage.

Follow Elliot Hughes on Twitter: @elliothughes12.

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