08292014 - Mass Air National Guard grateful for search and rescue support

  • Published
Senior leaders from the Massachusetts Air National Guard express their gratitude to the many local, state and federal agencies that supported the search and recovery operations and continued to participate in the ongoing recovery efforts following the fatal crash of a 104th Fighter Wing F-15C aircraft in the remote mountains near Deerfield Valley, Va.

"The level of support provided by a number of states and at the federal level has been very helpful during this challenging time," said Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, the Adjutant General, Massachusetts National Guard. "On behalf of the men and women of the Massachusetts National Guard, I thank each and every one of you for your assistance. The continued support from the available agencies will be critical as we work through the ongoing recovery and investigation."

"The 104th Fighter Wing is extremely grateful for the outpouring of support demonstrated by our local community, and nearly 30 agencies in the Virginia area that spent more than 30 hours scouring over dangerous terrain, committed to finding our fallen Airman and to bring him home," said Col. James Keefe, 104th Fighter Wing Commander.

The search and rescue efforts were supported by approximately 150 personnel from a number of agencies that include the Augusta County Sheriff's Office, Augusta County Fire and Rescue, Deerfield Fire Department, Churchville Fire Department, Swope Fire Department, Virginia State Police, Virginia National Guard, Virginia Department of Emergency Management, Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, Civil Air Patrol, U.S. Forest Service, FBI, US Border and Customs Enforcement, Maryland State Police Aviation, Alabama National Guard, Connecticut Air National Guard, Indiana National Guard, Massachusetts Air National Guard, New Jersey National Guard, West Virginia National Guard and the U.S. Air Force.

A number of volunteer search and rescue teams also participated in the rescue operation, including the Southwestern VA Mountain Rescue Group, Search & Rescue Dogs East, Shenandoah Mountain Rescue Group, Blue Ridge Mountain Rescue Group, Blue-Gray Search & Rescue, VA Search & Rescue Dogs Association and Piedmont Search & Rescue.

The investigation into the crash is ongoing.


No additional information is available at this time. Honorable transfer and memorial announcements will be made through official channels once releasable.

At approximately 9:05 a.m. Wednesday, Washington Center Air Traffic Control in Washington, D.C. lost radio contact with the F-15C aircraft stationed at the 104th Fighter Wing, Mass., and at approximately 9:30 a.m. the 104th Fighter Wing learned that the aircraft had crashed in a remote site near Deerfield Valley, Va.

The single seat F-15C aircraft was en route to Naval Air Station New Orleans to receive a radar system upgrade. The flight was not related to the 104th Fighter Wing's homeland defense mission, and there were no munitions on the aircraft during this flight. The pilot was flying a solo mission when he reported an in-flight emergency prior to the loss of radio contact with Washington Center.

Officials confirmed Thursday evening at 5:00 p.m. the pilot, Lt. Col. Morris "Moose" Fontenot Jr., was fatally injured in the Aug. 27 crash of an F-15C Eagle in the remote mountains near Deerfield Valley, Va.

Lt. Col. Morris Fontenot Jr. served with the 104th Fighter Wing as the full-time Wing Inspector General, responsible for the implementation of the Air Force Inspection System and as an F-15 instructor pilot with more than 2,300 flight hours. A 1996 Air Force Academy Graduate, Lt. Col. Fontenot was additionally a Weapons School Graduate with more than 17 years of F-15 flying experience. He served as a squadron commander at multiple locations. Following Active Duty assignments in Washington D.C., Japan, Idaho, Florida, Alaska and numerous deployments to the Middle East, Lt. Col. Fontenot joined the Massachusetts Air National Guard in February 2014. He was a decorated combat veteran, earning the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Aerial Achievement Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal, and Combat Readiness Medal among others.