A pilot from Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter who died Monday when his F-16 fighter jet crashed in Jordan, was remembered by family members Tuesday as “so much more than a kick-ass fighter pilot.”
Capt. William H. DuBois, 30, of New Castle, Colo., was a member of the 77th Fighter Squadron, which was deployed in October from Shaw to bomb Islamic State of Iraq and Syria targets. DuBois is survived by his wife, Ashley.
“He was the best man I ever knew,” his father, William “Ham” DuBois, said in statements released by Shaw. “He lost his life being a hero.”
“Will was anything but generic,” his mother, Donna DuBois , said. “Family held the highest priority in his life. He made everyone around him better.”
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DuBois is the third U.S. service member to die in the war on ISIS, according to U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla. All of the deaths have been non-combat related.
He is the first service member with ties to South Carolina to die in the war on ISIS, which began in August, and the 113th to die in the wars following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001: 64 in Iraq, 48 in Afghanistan and now one in the war on ISIS.
“The death of Capt. DuBois is a sad and tragic loss for the Air Force and our most sincere condolences go out to his family, friends and squadron members during this difficult time,” Col. Stephen F. Jost, 20th Fighter Wing commander said in a statement. “Capt. DuBois served his country honorably; he was a valuable member of Team Shaw and will be greatly missed by all.”
DuBois’ aircraft was returning to its base about 11 p.m. Sunday, shortly after take-off, when it crashed, according to a release from Central Command.
The aircraft was taking off to conduct a combat run in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, as the operation against ISIS is called. The military would not disclose where the air base is located because of host nation sensitivities.
But a report from CNN, citing an unnamed U.S. official, said the crash happened in Jordan. That report also said the jet was returning to the base because it was suffering from maintenance problems.
The military said the crash is still under investigation.
Nicknamed “Pyro,” DuBois participated in ROTC at Rifle High School and the University of Colorado, according to his hometown newspaper, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.
His uncle Bob DuBois of New Castle told the Post Independent, “Will was a wonderful young man with incredible spirit and he was well-liked by everyone he met. We are numb with shock. He has wanted to fly since he was a kid.”
New Castle lowered flags to half-staff at Town Hall and the town cemetery, the paper said.
The 77th Fighter Squadron from Shaw left for an undisclosed location in the Middle East in October to conduct combat missions against ISIS. The squadron is part of the 20th Fighter Wing, which is based at Shaw.
With about 80 jet fighters in three squadrons, the wing is the largest concentration of F-16s in the Air Force.
Shaw Air Force Base has played a key role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and now Syria. F-16 squadrons from the base have been deployed numerous times to the Middle East and southwest Asia to bomb targets in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Air-to-ground attacks are the F-16’s specialty and the type of mission being conducted in Iraq and Syria.
Another Shaw pilot died in a crash last year. On April 3, 2013, Capt. James Michael Steel, 29, a 77th Squadron pilot from Tampa, Fla., died in Afghanistan when his F-16 crashed near Bagram Airfield while returning to base from a close air support mission.
Shaw is home to both U.S. Army Central and U.S. Air Forces Central. The two commands continue to plan, equip and supply the ground and air wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. They are the Army and Air Force component of U.S. Central Command, headquartered in Tampa, Fla.
The most recent air attacks, intended to degrade fighters of the Islamic State group, which has taken over large swaths of Syria and Iraq, began on Aug. 7.