Wisconsin Air National Guard Unit Grounds Jets After Crash

Capt. Durwood Jones

(courtesy: CNN)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin Air National Guard unit has grounded its pilots while the fatal crash of an F-16 fighter jet is being investigated, and authorities on Friday identified the pilot who died as a decorated combat veteran who had flown in three tours of duty.

The Madison-based 115th Fighter Wing said Air Force Capt. Durwood “Hawk” Jones, 37, from Albuquerque, New Mexico, died in Tuesday’s crash in a national forest in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula during a training mission.

The military said Jones joined the Air National Guard in 2011 and had deployed to Japan in 2015, Korea in 2017, and to Afghanistan in 2019. Jones was awarded two Air Medals with combat “C” devices, which are given to individuals who have been personally exposed to or under significant risk of hostile action.

He is survived by his wife and two children.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported Friday that 115th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Bart Van Roo said it could take a month to determine what happened and more than a year to figure out why.

Van Roo said the unit will be grounded until leaders determine it’s safe to fly again.

“Right now we’re deliberate about understanding when we’re going to fly next, but we have stood down for now,” he said.

The plane was assigned to the 115th Fighter Wing at Truax Field Air National Guard Base in Madison. It went down in Hiawatha National Forest, about 250 miles northeast of the base. The crash site is in Delta County, on the shores of Lake Michigan.

The national forest spans about 879,000 acres, according to the forest’s website. The closest community to the crash site — a remote area with no cellphone service — is the small village of Steuben, located in adjacent Schoolcraft County, authorities have said.

The 115th Fighter Wing has about 1,200 members, including 500 full-time airmen. The unit began flying F-16 Falcons in 1992 and in April, the Air Force named Truax Field as one of two bases that would get new F-35 fighter planes to replace the aging F-16s, starting in 2023.

Tuesday’s crash was the unit’s third F-16 crash in 25 years. The other two were not fatal.

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