Members of the 104th Fighter Wing Friday mourned the loss of their fellow pilot, Lt. Col. Morris "Moose" Fontenot Jr., a decorated war veteran who was killed in an F-15 crash in Virginia Wednesday morning.
A prayer service was held Friday morning in memory of Fontenot, a Texas native who lived in Longmeadow. Members of the unit gathered in a hangar at Barnes Air National Guard Base to remember their fallen comrade and pray for his family.
Search and rescue efforts in the thickly wooded mountains near Deerfield, VA were taken up by approximately 150 people from a number of agencies, including the FBI, several National Guard agencies and local law enforcement, according to Massachusetts National Guard 2nd Lt. Bonnie Harper.
"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.
Senior leaders from the Massachusetts Air National Guard expressed their gratitude to the local, state and federal agencies that supported the search and recovery operations.
"The level of support provided by a number of states and at the federal level has been very helpful during this challenging time," said Massachusetts National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice. "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."
Agencies that provided assistance during the search included 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, U.S. Border and Customs Enforcement, Maryland State Police Aviation, Indiana National Guard, Massachusetts Air National Guard, New Jersey National Guard, Alabama National Guard, West Virginia National Guard and the U.S. Air Force, Harper said.
In addition, 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, Harper said.
The investigation into the crash remains ongoing, according to Harper.
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