Fallen F-15 pilot, Academy graduate honored at memorial ceremony

  • Published
  • By Don Branum
  • U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
A fallen F-15 pilot and 1996 graduate of the Air Force Academy was honored by Airmen whose lives he touched during a memorial service at the Cadet Chapel here Oct. 3.

Lt. Col. Morris Fontenot Jr. was remembered by his brothers in arms, his daughters and his wife as an outstanding pilot, officer, husband and father.

Gen. Herbert Carlisle, commander of Pacific Air Command and a 1978 Academy graduate, spoke about Fontenot's time in the 58th Fighter Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Carlisle was the 33rd Fighter Wing commander in 2001 when Fontenot arrived at the 58th with his family.

"His time with us at Eglin was incredibly special," Carlisle said. "He was an incredible pilot. ... If you couldn't find Moose, he was either in the weapons shop, or he had a lieutenant around the neck, and he was talking about the finer tactical points of how to maneuver in an air-to-air engagement. He was the life and spirit of the squadron in everything he did."

As a Congressional fellow, Fontenot was one of the Air Force's most persuasive spokespeople, Carlisle said.

"If you wanted to convince somebody on Capitol Hill that we, the United States Air Force, needed to do something, the first person you would send was Moose Fontenot, because he would make it happen," Carlisle said. "He was passionate. He loved what he did. He could convince you of just about anything. He was phenomenal at what he did."

Fontenot based his leadership style on creating relationships with the people he led, said Chief Master Sgt. Gerald Roy, who served with Fontenot in the 44th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Japan.

"He bridged the gap between 'us and them' into a 'we,' as in 'We are in this together as a team,'" said Roy, who is now assigned to the 412th AMXS at Edwards AFB, Calif. "Colonel Fontenot developed relationships with the maintenance folks by showing them that he genuinely cared about (each of) them ... as a valued person on the team."

Col. James Keefe, the 104th Fighter Wing commander, said the wing was lucky to have Fontenot in their family. Fontenot joined the Massachusetts Air National Guard in February 2014.

"There is no doubt in my mind that his service at Barnes Air National Guard Base was just the beginning of what would later be seen as a remarkable career," Keefe said. "There are few officers I have met and served with who made a lasting impression on me that I would count on them to be one of the senior leaders in the Air National Guard. Moose was one of those leaders. If his career was an indicator of what he could do, his potential was limitless."

Keefe said that while Fontenot's death has shaken the 104th and the larger Air Force family, it has also brought people closer together.

"And that's something that Moose would be proud of," he added. "He was a committed father, son, husband and brother in arms, and I am truly blessed to have been one of those to call him a friend."

Kara Fontenow, Morris' widow and a 1998 Academy graduate, thanked everyone who attended, as well as those in the Longmeadow, Mass., area who watched the service via a live stream from WWLP Channel 22 News.

"This outpouring of love and support is unprecedented," said Kara, who also graduated from the Academy in '96. "I have never felt anything like it in my life. It takes my breath away.

"If it's true that you can judge someone for making a difference in life by the size of the crowd at his funeral, Moose's life made a difference."

Fontenot was assigned to Cadet Squadron 33 as a cadet at the Academy. He had more than 2,300 flying hours, including 240 combat hours. His decorations included a Meritorious Service Medal, an Air Medal, an Aerial Achievement Medal, an Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal and Combat Readiness Medal.

He died Aug. 27 when his F-15 crashed near the Shenandoah Valley in western Virginia. He is survived by his wife, Kara; his daughters, Natalie and Nicole; and his parents, Morris Fontenot Sr. and Mary Jane Fontenot of Willis, Texas.